June 4, 2012

Athletes of the Year: 1991

On June 22, The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram will honor the state's best high school athletes at our annual banquet. A player of the year for each sport will be honored and we'll name our male and female Athletes of the Year. What makes this year so special is that it's the 25th year of honoring Maine's best, so we will be catching up with all our Athletes of the Year since the first banquet in 1988. Today, we honor the winners from 1991.

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Melissa Lockman, a former running standout for John Bapst, now lives in Colorado with her husband and 1-year-old daughter.

Courtesy Photos

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Ryan Werner became one of the country’s top decathlon competitors and went on to become a firefighter in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

MELISSA LOCKMAN, John Bapst

IN HIGH SCHOOL: Melissa Lockman set the standard and the records for female distance runners in Maine in 1991. She was dominant at the state indoor meet, winning three events and the outstanding performer award. More recognition came when she was invited to compete in the girls’  mile at the prestigious Millrose Games at Madison Square Garden that winter. She finished third. Nationally, she was ranked second in the 2-mile. Lockman remembers her coach, John Emerson, giving her a very personal MVP award. “It was a small Swiss Army knife sort of thing with “Grit and Grace” engraved on it.”

SINCE HIGH SCHOOL: Lockman ran cross country and track at Princeton, making the All-Ivy cross country team as a sophomore. Then, it all came apart. “I spent most of my junior year in the training room, often in tears as my identity as a runner faded into oblivion. I had a lot of overuse injuries.” She left Princeton and took classes at Idaho State. A year later she returned to Princeton but never ran competitively again for the school. Later she earned a black belt in Shotokan Karate, kayaked Class VI whitewater and rock climbed. She works as a parent-infant psychotherapist in Boulder, Colo., where she lives with her husband and 1-year-old daughter, who was delivered after 65 hours of labor. Her husband and friends were amazed at her stamina. Lockman was inducted into John Bapst’s Athletic Hall of Fame last year and is training for her first triathlon.

WHAT IT MEANT TO WIN: “The recognition felt good. I’d like to say I reflected on it deeply, but I was a somewhat typical adolescent and fairly self-absorbed. I still have a clip from a TV interview from that time, and my husband and I have watched it and laughed pretty hard. I was pretty serious about myself.”

RYAN WERNER, Scarborough

IN HIGH SCHOOL: Ryan Werner combined strength, quickness and uncommon stamina to excel in the pole vault and 300-meter hurdles. He turned his attention to the other eight events that make up the decathlon and was a national youth champion in the summer following his junior year at Scarborough. He helped lead Scarborough to back-to-back indoor and outdoor track titles in 1990 and 1991. He still holds the outdoor Class B records in the 300-meter intermediate hurdles and the pole vault.

SINCE HIGH SCHOOL: Werner and Rob Pendergist of Ellsworth became friendly rivals in decathlons while at Liberty University and Mount St. Mary College in the early 1990s. Werner became a workout partner and mentor in the decathlon to Jamie Cook of Kennebunk. Werner was a three-time NCAA Division I All-American from 1994-96. He was inducted into the Big South Conference Hall of Fame in 2007. He later became a firefighter in Myrtle Beach, S.C., and won the South Carolina Firefighters Challenge, a competition in full gear. Now an EMT, he’s also Captain Ryan, running a fishing charter business. “I had 230 trips last year,” said Werner, who grew up on ocean waters, helping his lobsterman father. He now throws the javelin in Masters competition.

WHAT IT MEANT TO WIN: “Looking back, it was the best time of my life. I remember struggling with friends in workouts and all the pain you go through. It becomes part of your life and it was worth it. I was excited when I heard my name. You’re so used to the big three sports (football, basketball, baseball) getting all the attention. Winning this, I felt like I was winning for everybody who competes in track.”

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