Some cross country runners need to improve their strength in order to better deal with hills. Others need work on their speed so they can move up in the pack.

Luke Laverdiere, a junior at Yarmouth High, needed neither strength nor speed last fall. Leading up to the Class B state meet, he won every race in Maine he entered.

No, the thing Laverdiere needed most was to learn how to relax, how to rest, how to make sure to peak at the right time.

One week after winning the Class B South meet last fall, Laverdiere ran the same Twin Brook course in Cumberland more than a minute slower in the state meet, falling to 13th place and failing to qualify for the New England championships.

“That was a heartbreak,” Laverdiere said. “I was running very well the entire season, setting new PRs along the way. Then at states I just couldn’t get it done.”

Bob Morse, the longtime Yarmouth coach, thinks that disappointment will help Laverdiere in the long run.

“He’s learned to work hard and also to rest,” Morse said, “and to realize that every race is not the ultimate race.”

This fall, Morse said, Laverdiere will be running rather than racing in some of the less-important meets, perhaps helping pace classmate Sammy Potter, who wound up passing Laverdiere at the state meet to finish 10th.

“He’s matured a lot,” Morse said. “He’s not the kid he was last year.”

For proof, Morse pointed to Class B state titles Laverdiere won last winter (mile in indoor track) and spring (800 and 1,600 in outdoor track). This summer, Laverdiere passed up the inaugural Beach to Beacon High School Mile for fear of messing up his focus on increased mileage. Instead, he ran the Beach to Beacon 10K, and even hung with Ben True and the lead pack for the first mile before settling into a 6-minute pace and finishing in 36 minutes, 36 seconds, for 134th overall.

“I thought it could be detrimental to my (cross country) season because I haven’t done a whole lot of speedwork,” he said. “But I think it’s great that they have a showcase for some of the best milers in the state.”

Laverdiere grew up in Augusta and started running as a fourth-grader in a summer recreation program directed by the legendary Taylor Harmon, a longtime coach at Cony High who died last October. Baseball was Laverdiere’s first love. He also tried lacrosse, football, basketball and skiing, but figured his future was on trails and the track.

Never was his ability to focus more evident than at last fall’s Western Maine Conference meet, when one of his shoes popped off after someone accidentally stepped on the heel in the first 200 meters.

Even with one foot bare, Laverdiere never slowed. He won by 14 seconds.

“At the end my foot was sore,” he said. “It was a little bruised for the next few days. But in a race when you’re going fast, you’re hurting already.”

More problematic for Laverdiere over his career has been something called vocal cord dysfunction, in which small muscles on the larynx fail to open when inhaling, compromising his ability to effectively move air in and out of the lungs.

“It’s similar to asthma,” he said. “I haven’t had it recently but it’s something that I definitely have to watch out for. I think it’s stress-induced. If there are people behind me who are pressuring me that I wasn’t expecting, it might trigger it.”

Whether VCD was a factor in the state meet last fall, Laverdiere isn’t sure. He said he felt great for the first mile and a half.

“Then I felt the Freeport boys and the Greely boys right behind me,” he said. “They made a move and I just couldn’t respond. I don’t know what it was.”

Missing the New England meet gave Laverdiere a chance to rest for the Foot Locker Northeast Regional race at Van Cortlandt Park in New York. He finished 73rd, the fourth sophomore and third Mainer, behind John Hassett of George Stevens Academy and Ryan Morrison of Greely. The top 10 runners advanced to the Foot Locker nationals in San Diego.

Laverdiere hopes to be in that conversation this fall, but before that he has other goals, both for himself and his team.

Yarmouth’s boys haven’t won a state title since Matt Lane led the 1995 Clippers to the Class C crown. An influx of talent coupled with a strong returning core has Laverdiere feeling hopeful.

“I’m looking to race less this year and focus on a few certain races,” he said. “The other races, I’m just going to try to get the team going and make sure we’re in contention to win a state championship.”

This year’s state meet will be held in Belfast, a flatter and more forgiving course than Twin Brook.

“He didn’t have a good experience last year,” Morse said. “He wants to change that.”

2016 TEAMS TO WATCH

Boys

1. Freeport: The Falcons are shooting for a third straight Class B title. Senior Henry Jaques moves into the top spot with sophomore Alex Les, junior Tom Doyle and senior Evan Donald providing experienced depth. Senior Yacob Olins has a strong Nordic skiing base. Sophomore Paul Biberstein and freshmen Jeremy Brogan and Heath Cockburn also will contend for scoring positions.

2. Yarmouth: It would be hard to find a better 1-2 punch than juniors Luke Laverdiere and Sammy Potter. Sophomores Ben Cox-Faxon and Zachary Rapone also return from the top four, and newcomers John Decker (a senior with track experience) and Odeh Rizkallah (a sub-19 freshman from Egypt) should help Yarmouth contend for its first state title since 1995.

3. Scarborough: Graduation cost the two-time defending Class A state champion its top three runners, but the Red Storm have a way of regenerating. Seniors Andrew Goodwin and Shamus Malia and junior Luke Grover lead a squad of 28, half of them new, including freshman Connor Coffin (a standout in junior high) and sophomore Harrison Osborn (who comes over from soccer after a successful outdoor track season).

4. Falmouth: The Class A regional and state runner-up returns four of its top six runners, including seniors Jeremiah Sands and Ben Wyman, junior Conner Piers and sophomore John Auer. Junior Charlie Henning appears to have the inside track for the fifth spot. With a roster of 35 boys, depth will be a strong point.

5. Windham: The Eagles have never won a state title, but with no dominant team in Class A they might break through this fall. Seniors Ben Breton and Jeremy Bennett lead a squad that returns four of its top five, including sophomore Mason Rosborough and junior Wyatt Yost. Senior Sebastian Foster, juniors Hunter Dionne and Jaren Preston, and freshman Jordan Piechowski will compete for the fifth spot.

Girls

1. Greely: Senior Katherine Leggat-Barr is the two-time defending Class B state champion. Sophomore Carolyn Todd was runner-up last fall and junior Izzy Evans, back from a year abroad, was the 2014 runner-up. Add to that outstanding trio junior Kate Curran, sophomore Julia Curran and a pair of Chloes (Smith and Waldrep), and the Rangers appear formidable.

2. Yarmouth: The Clippers return their top four runners from the Class B championship squad: junior Anneka Murrin, and seniors Abby Hamilton, Grace Cowles and Georgia Giese. Developing a potent fifth runner will be paramount if Yarmouth hopes to defend its title, the first in school history.

3. York: The Wildcats placed third in Class B – three points behind runner-up Greely – with a quintet that returns intact: senior Malia Cryan, juniors Kathryn Miller and Laura Kenealy, and sophomores Sophia Newton and Grace Gear. Junior Grace Reynolds, a triathlete, is back from injury. That experience and depth should provide another three-way battle for the state title.

4. Bonny Eagle: The defending Class A champion lost two top runners to graduation but returns a solid sophomore trio of Ami Beaumier (top four distance runner in both indoor and outdoor track), Abbie Nelson and Kayla Raymond (outdoor track 1,600 state champ). Classmate Christine Toy is back from injury and freshman Emma Abbot completes a young, talented quintet.

5. Scarborough: The Red Storm dropped to second last fall after winning the Class A state title in 2014. Senior Marisa Carbone and juniors Bethany Sholl and Samantha Saraceno should form a solid core. Freshman Ryanne Cox rounds out the top four. The challenge will be to develop a strong fifth runner.