Like many endurance athletes, Sofie Matson often has a song in her head when she’s running over trails in the woods.

And even though Taylor Swift or the Shangri-Las would seem like appropriate artists, Matson prefers band music. She’s an accomplished pianist who plays clarinet in the Portland Youth Symphony Orchestra and the Portland Youth Wind Ensemble, and last spring was named outstanding jazz soloist in the state’s Middle School Instrumental Jazz Festival.

And she runs well, too.

In her first taste of high school competition, Matson was most certainly the leader of Maine’s pack. She opened the season with a victory in the Southern Maine Classic in Gorham and kept on winning, right through the Class A South regional (53-second gap on a field of 121) and the state championships (37-second gap on a field of 117).

Not until the New England championships, where she was 10th, or the Foot Locker Northeast Regional, where she placed 14th, did she have serious competition. In both cases, she was the first Maine girl to finish.

For doing so, Matson is our choice as the Maine Sunday Telegram’s Runner of the Year in girls’ cross country.

“We knew she was definitely going to be one of the top contenders,” said Jorma Kurry, one of Falmouth’s two head coaches. “I don’t think anyone anticipated how well she would do.”

“What made her better than we realized,” said Danny Paul,” Falmouth’s other head coach, “is that she’s smart. She’s clearly fast, but she’s also unflappable. She has the ability to stay composed.”

Matson was born in Connecticut, moved to St. Louis at age 2 and arrived in Falmouth as she was completing the fourth grade. Her dad is an illustrator and political cartoonist who played competitive tennis, and her mom ran in high school.

Sofie tried soccer but gravitated toward running. She didn’t like sprinting and “wasn’t really a fan of contact sports,” so she joined her elementary school track program. She figures she was 9 for her first road race, the Girls on the Run 5K.

This summer, at 14, she ran her first Beach to Beacon 10K and finished in 39 minutes, 9 seconds. That’s a 6:19 mile pace, and it made her the fastest female finisher under 20 – and brought her across the line a few seconds ahead of the race founder and Olympic gold medalist, Joan Benoit Samuelson.

That most cameras were focused on Samuelson at the finish was fine with Matson, a soft-spoken teenager who enjoys reading, and writes short stories and poetry. She’s already written a few picture books.

“I haven’t been published yet,” she said, “but I definitely plan on submitting things.”

Besides cross country this fall, and the Wednesday afternoon and evening music rehearsals at the University of Southern Maine, she found time to compete with Falmouth’s debate team, partnering with fellow freshman runner Vance Boyd in Public Forum. They placed third in a novice tournament.

“I like preparing and writing the cases, but I’m not a fan of the crossfires,” she said. “So it’s helpful to have a more outgoing partner.”

Matson plans to skip indoor track. She’ll continue to run, but prefers to do so outdoors. Last Saturday at the Foot Locker regional in New York, she was eighth in the final mile before falling out of the 10 qualifiers who advanced to San Diego.

“I’m not very fast on downhills, so I think a bunch of people passed me then,” she said. “It was a good experience. I’m excited to go back next year.”

Maine Sunday Telegram Girls’ Cross Country All-State team

Ami Beaumier, Bonny Eagle junior: Beaumier finished in the top 10 in Class A for a third straight year, placing sixth. She won four SMAA meets and finished sixth at the Festival of Champions (in a season-best 18:47) before snagging fifth in Class A South. She was 70th at the New Englands, ninth among Mainers.

Lily Horne, Freeport junior: After placing second in the Class B South regional, Horne won the state title by more than half a minute, dropping 24 seconds from her regional time. She went on to place 29th at the New Englands – third among Mainers – and 45th at the Foot Locker Northeast Regional.

Grace Iltis, Camden Hills sophomore: Along with Augusta Stockman, Iltis formed the state’s best 1-2 punch. Iltis placed fourth at the Festival of Champions, won the KVAC title, was runner-up at the Class A North regional and took third at the state meet. She earned all-New England honors by placing 23rd, second among Maine runners, in a season-low 18:43.

Sophia Laukli, Yarmouth senior: Running cross country for the first time to keep in shape for Nordic skiing, Laukli led Yarmouth to its second Class B title in three years. She finished a surprising second at the Festival of Champions in Belfast in a season-best time of 18:36, then placed fourth in Class B South and cut 16 seconds off her regional time to take second in the state meet.

Sofie Matson, Falmouth freshman: In her first high school season, Matson ran in a class by herself. In addition to dominant performances in the Class A South regional and state meets, she posted the fastest times at the Southern Maine Classic and Festival of Champions. She wrapped up her season by placing 10th in New England and 14th in the Foot Locker Northeast Regional, both as the second freshman girl to finish. Her time of 18:17 at the New England meet was the fastest in the state this year.

Anneka Murrin, Yarmouth senior: Murrin opened with a win in the Southern Maine Classic junior/senior race with a time of 18:28 – second best this fall among Maine girls. Her results see-sawed from there, ninth at the Festival of Champions, regional champion in Class B South, and then fourth in the state meet, where she helped Yarmouth win the team title. She finished 61st at the New Englands, fifth among Mainers.

Malaika Pasch, Falmouth junior: After spending much of her early season rehabilitating from injury, Pasch came on strong toward the end. The defending Class A state champion missed all of September before placing seventh in the South regional and fifth in the state meet. At the New England meet in Belfast, Pasch placed 62nd and was the sixth Mainer to cross the line.

Karley Piers, Falmouth freshman: After a runner-up finish in the Southern Maine Classic freshman/sophomore division, Piers won the Festival of Champions freshman race at Belfast in a season-low time of 18:57. She was third in the Class A South regional and seventh in the state meet. At the New Englands, Piers was 72nd, the 10th Mainer to finish.

Olivia Reynolds, Maine Coast Waldorf freshman: As a Cumberland resident, Reynolds could have played soccer for Greely. Instead she chose to return to distance running for the first time since elementary school. She was sixth among freshman at the Festival of Champions, but steady improvement led to titles at the Class C South regional and the state meet.

Augusta Stockman, Camden Hills junior: After two seasons cut short by injury, Stockman finally remained healthy throughout the fall and led her team to a Class A championship. She was second in the KVAC championships before winning the Class A North regional in a season-best time of 18:35, fastest of the day regardless of class. She finished second in the state and 58th at the New Englands, fifth among Maine runners, despite an early tumble that left her temporarily in last place.

Carolyn Todd, Greely junior: An important member of the 2016 Class B state championship squad, Todd made a smooth transition to Class A and helped the Rangers climb from third in the South regional to second at the state meet. She finished second at the regional meet and fourth at the state meet. Earlier in the season, she was second at the Southern Maine Classic and third at the Festival of Champions.

Coach of the Year

Helen Bonzi, Camden Hills: Bonzi wasn’t sure what to expect with the young Windjammers moving up to Class A, but after a strong start to the season, it was a matter of keeping a young team healthy. “That was the real key to our success this year,” Bonzi said. “We had a very, very low injury rate. We kept everybody healthy and having fun.” At the state meet, junior Augusta Stockman and sophomore Grace Iltis finished 2-3, and sophomore Miranda Dunton (14th), freshman Claire Wyman (24th) and freshman Rose O’Brien (42nd) completed the 34-point victory over runner-up Greely.

– Glenn Jordan