PORTLAND – The 26 candidates for The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram’s male and female athletes of the year for 2009-10 included a record-setting hurdler who aspires to be a nurse, a Dartmouth-bound student who is a two-time All-American in boys soccer, a four-time state wrestling champion and a three-sport athlete who is a chamber choir singer.

On Sunday, during a recognition luncheon held at the Italian Heritage Center, the honors went to seniors Will Geoghegan of Brunswick and Jenni Roberts of Sanford.

The two high school athletes of the year are chosen by a panel made up of staff members at the Press Herald and Kennebec Journal, as well as coaches, administrators and sports officials from southern Maine.

“I wasn’t expecting this at all,” said Roberts, who was this year’s girls swimming MVP.

Geoghegan, a distance runner, is the Maine Sunday Telegram’s first MVP in three sports — cross country, indoor track and field, and outdoor track and field.

He won this year’s individual Class A title in cross country, won three individual titles in indoor track and three individual titles in outdoor track and helped Brunswick win Class A team championships in indoor and outdoor track.

Geoghegan also won the boys 1,600 at the New England outdoor track championships.

He will attend Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H.

Roberts, who is from a family known for basketball, set four state swimming records and three New England records and was named the top swimmer three years in a row at the Class A state championships.

She will compete at the University of Maryland.

“I’ve met a lot of people at banquets who know my dad and who have said to me, ‘Your dad was such a big basketball player,’ or ‘Your grandfather was such a big basketball player,’” Roberts said. “This is something different. It’s an honor because swimming is such a different sport than anything else out there.”

Geoghegan and Roberts were among the 26 athletes to be honored Sunday afternoon during an event that featured Jason Gibbons as the guest speaker. Gibbons is a motivational speaker who is the in-game master of ceremonies for the Maine Red Claws and is known as the “White Shadow,” part of the Harlem Superstars comedy basketball team.

“Every one of you knows just what it takes to leave blood, sweat and tears on the field or on the ice rink or on the track or wherever you play,” Gibbons told the audience. “Now, what do you do with that? Are you happy with where you are, or is there a fire in your belly?”

Gibbons urged the athletes to stand up for what they believe in and to make a daily habit of doing the little things necessary in order to achieve their goals.

“We’re counting on you to succeed,” Gibbons said.

Geoghegan and Roberts were in awe of the other’s athletic and academic accomplishments.

Roberts, Geoghegan explained, set not only state but also regional swimming records and had times in her events that were comparable to some of the state’s best times in boys competition.

“That’s incredible, especially when you consider what a small state Maine is,” Geoghegan said.

Roberts was impressed by the fact that Geoghegan not only was successful in track, but also had a perfect score on the reasoning section of the SAT.

“I wish I could get those kinds of scores on my SATs,” Roberts said, laughing.

At the same time, each considered what it meant to be a part of the exclusive list of athletes to be named athletes of the year since 1988.

“Being in the company of athletes such as Ben True, who’s an incredible runner — it’s an honor to be compared to someone like him,” Geoghegan said.

Roberts looked at the historical significance of being a part of a group that includes Cindy Blodgett, the University of Maine women’s basketball coach, and Mark Rogers, a pitcher in the Milwaukee Brewers organization.

“Next year, our names will be on the same page as some of the great athletes in this state,” Roberts said. “To be there among them, it’s an honor.”

Staff Writer Rachel Lenzi can be reached at 791-6415 or at:

[email protected]