One year after four freshman girls from Maine stunned the regional running community by placing among the top 10 in the 2008 New England cross country championships, Bethanie Brown entered Waterville High.

Although she had run with some success in junior high, Brown was more interested in musical theater than cross country.

Not until her junior year did Brown embrace the wooded trails and challenging hills of autumn afternoons, and it proved to be much different than the flat and neatly lined ovals she traverses in winter and spring.

“Last year was a really big learning curve for me,” she said. “A 5K in the woods is a lot different than running circles on the track. It requires a different focus.”

As a senior, Brown said she still hasn’t mastered cross country, but she certainly proved herself the best schoolgirl runner in Maine, winning the Class B state meet in a time nearly a minute faster than any other girl regardless of class.

Brown’s time for 3.1 miles was 17 minutes, 56.32 seconds. The only other girl who managed to run faster than 19 minutes was Class A champion Erzsebet Nagy, a senior from Lawrence who finished in 18:50.

Brown is our Maine Sunday Telegram Female Runner of the Year.

“On the surface, you wouldn’t necessarily see the competitor that’s underneath,” said Waterville Coach Rob Stanton, “but once you’re around her for a little while, the fact that she’s a more focused and determined athlete comes out much more clearly.”

So what does Brown do that works so well?

“She doesn’t give up,” Stanton said. “That’s not an implication that others do. She just does it a lot less.”

Brown ended last fall with a fifth-place finish at the New England championships. A solid summer of training led to a superb senior season. In late September, she lowered Abbey Leonardi’s meet record at the Festival of Champions by more than a second to 17:56. In October, Brown won the Eastern Class B title in the mud, then returned to Belfast to win the state title in unusually warm conditions and bright sunshine.

Two weeks later, she placed seventh in the New England meet in Cumberland, and last weekend finished 11th at the Foot Locker Northeast Regional in New York, missing by one place a trip to San Diego for the nationals.

She has other interests, including public speaking. She is a two-time state finalist in the Poetry Out Loud competition.

After visiting five colleges, Brown accepted an athletic scholarship to the University of Connecticut to continue running track and cross country.

There are new trails to explore, but unlike her indoctrination into cross country a year ago, there will be plenty of runners to lead the way.

“Last year I had to learn all these new trails that I’d never seen before,” she said. “I got lost half the time. This year, I did not get lost at all, which I think is a very big accomplishment.”

Staff Writer Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at:

gjordan@pressherald.com

Twitter: GlennJordanPPH