Kate Hall and Ben Lucas had similar reactions Sunday after being named Athletes of the Year at the conclusion of the 27th annual Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram All-Sports Banquet.
“I was a little shocked,” said Lucas, the record-setting quarterback for Cony High’s Class B championship team. “There are so many great athletes in the state.”
“I was excited to win,” said Hall, who has set multiple track and field state records competing for Lake Region High. “I know it must have been a hard decision. There are so many amazing athletes here.”
To be eligible for Athlete of the Year, Lucas and Hall first had to be honored as the top performer in their respective sports.
More than 100 people were on hand at the Italian Heritage Center to fete the 14 boys and 13 girls (Hall won for both indoor and outdoor track) chosen in the 2013-14 school year.
Each athlete was introduced by Press Herald sports columnist Steve Solloway and was presented with a framed action photo from the past school year.
“You always hear about the big names in sports like basketball and football,” Lucas said. “It was really cool to hear about the great athletes in some of the other sports, the individual sports like skiing and tennis.”
The Athletes of the Year were chosen by a panel that included high school coaches, an athletic director, and Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram staff writers and editors.
“Our extensive and comprehensive coverage of high school sports is part of our ongoing commitment to serving the community in Maine,” said Lisa DeSisto, publisher of the Press Herald and Sunday Telegram. “It’s a pleasure to be able to tell their stories.”
Hall, who lives in Casco and is home schooled, was the indoor track and field athlete of the year as a sophomore but could not attend the banquet because she was competing in the New Balance national outdoor championships.
“I was very happy I could come this year,” she said. “I was hoping it would be the week after nationals.”
According to two longtime staff sports writers, Hall is the first female to be named Athlete of the Year as a junior.
At this year’s national championships, Hall further solidified her already established credentials as the best female sprinter/jumper in Maine high school history. She placed third last weekend in the 100-meter dash in a wind-aided 11.45 seconds. Her time of 11.58 in the prelims is considered an all-time New England best. She was also eighth in the 200 meters in 23.98 seconds – the first sub-24 by a New England schoolgirl – and sixth in the long jump.
At the national high school indoor championships in March in New York, she set a Maine all-time best mark of 19 feet, 11¼ inches in the long jump.
Hall said she has made a list of possible college destinations. The college selection process figures to intensify beginning July 1, the first day she can be contacted by coaches.
On July 3, Lucas will begin formal offseason workouts in preparation for reporting to training camp as a scholarship recruit at the University of Maine. Lucas said he hopes to compete for the Black Bears’ open quarterback position.
Lucas passed for 3,482 yards and 41 touchdowns as a senior, leading Cony to its first football state championship since 1932. In his three-year career, he threw for 7,700 yards and 89 touchdowns – both state records.
But it was more than Lucas’ eye-popping personal numbers that led to his choice as Male Athlete of the Year. Lucas was also credited for his superior leadership, as exemplified in the Class B state championship game when he threw for 307 yards and three touchdowns in the second half to rally his team from a 16-0 deficit to a 30-23 win against Kennebunk.
Prior to the presentation of awards, guest speaker Simon Williams urged his audience to use their skills to impact future athletes and young students. A former baseball standout at Portland High and the University of Maine who played professionally until he was 29, Williams told his audience, “You are athletic, energetic, enthusiastic. You are lightning in a bottle. You can impact these kids.”