Abbey Leonardi is a foodie. That she’s the best female distance runner of her generation in Maine is a given. Her four state cross country championships in four years never had been done by a Maine schoolgirl.

She and Sam Dexter of Messalonskee were named the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram Athletes of the Year on Friday night at a reception for 27 of our Players of the Year in all sports.

It was a night where we got to know more about who they are. As opposed to what they did.

Leonardi is quiet and unpretentious. She doesn’t reveal much. Until she started talking about food during a training run with her Kennebunk High coach, Mike Dinehart.

A foodie? She’s a wisp.

Sometimes we look at our best high school athletes as one-dimensional, appreciating their extraordinary skills and talent, and asking only that they not disappoint us by breaking rules.

Rhett Chase was the 220-pound Class B state wrestling champion for Camden Hills. Rugged kid. Quick grin, but something has to really trigger it. Chase’s coach once overheard him apologizing to an opponent after beating the pudding out of him.

“He’s a giant teddy bear,” said Coach Levi Rollins. “(But) everyone on the team looks up to him.”

Chase is polite in the yes sir, no ma’am way. Days after his high school graduation he walked into a U.S. Marines recruiting office. He reports for basic training in about six months.

Trebor Lawton is a swimmer from Cheverus. He grows squash and sells it at farmers’ markets. Didn’t have much luck with corn in the past, he said, and pumpkins seemed to require more time than he could give them.

Bethanie Brown recites poetry at state competitions, representing Waterville High. She writes poetry. She’s active in the drama club. This spring her stage was the track. She set records in the 1,600 and 3,200 meters in one big meet after another at the end of the season.

Abby Mace of Maranacook plays Mozart and Chopin on the piano. She writes a blog on me.milesplit.com with insight, clarity and a gentle humor that’s a world apart from what’s typically found on the message boards of high school sports sites.

Mace was the state’s best cross-country skier, but distance running has a stronger hold on her. She wrote of throwing an imaginary rope around Brown in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference meet earlier in the spring, to try and keep Brown close.

Brown won that race, but Mace’s grace was refreshing.

This group of elite high school athletes had several writers. Who would have guessed?

Boys tennis champ Jordan Friedland wrote about hurricanes, earthquakes and such on a regular basis for the weekly Lincoln County News. His column was called Weather or Not. He also plays the piano, from classical music to New Age. George Winston anyone?

Ali Prescott was a correspondent for the Fiddlehead Focus, “Where the Valley finds out about the Valley.” As in the St. John’s Valley in far northern Maine. Prescott is from Fort Kent.

Softball pitcher Julie Geaumont of Thornton Academy has a photo of Washington Nationals phenom Bryce Harper on her cellphone. She laughed when I asked. But then, Geaumont finds humor in everything.

Her coach has asked her to wipe her smile off her face when she pitches. Look mean. Just once, please.

Each of the athletes received an enlarged, framed action photo of themselves. Geaumont was about to deliver a pitch in her photo. Her mouth was in a downward crescent, proof that yes, she did listen to her coach every once in a while.

In a gathering where each athlete has incredible statistics or times or distances, Geaumont’s may top them all. As a hitter she got 36 hits. As a pitcher she allowed only 34.

Louis DiTomasso, the two-way Wells High football star, motivated himself by watching videos of Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis. DiTomasso’s goal was to play with Lewis’ intensity.

Ashley Robinson, the girls’ soccer player from Bangor High, is also a distance runner. She and her English teacher, Emilie Manhart, went to Sugarloaf together. Robinson was entered in the 15K race and Manhart in the marathon. After Robinson finished her race, she sought Manhart and found her at Mile 24 of the marathon. Robinson ran with her, offering company and more importantly, support.

Fryeburg Academy’s Silas Eastman, the top male skier, built a tree house on his family’s farm. It’s a bit more elaborate than a typical smelt shack on a Maine river and environmentally friendly. Eastman does more than talk about caring for the green earth.

Maisie Silverman of Brunswick, the girls’ player of the year in tennis, gives back. She joined Tennis Without Borders, which promotes the sport in countries where it may seem like a luxury. She’s assisting on an effort in Ghana.

Sure, you say that will look good on a college application. I say don’t be so cynical. The best athletes often are the best people. We found that out Friday night.

Staff Writer Steve Solloway can be contacted at 791-6412 or at:

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Twitter: SteveSollowayPPH