FREEPORT – Elly Bengtsson overcame two huge obstacles on her way to being named Freeport High School’s Senior Athlete of the Year during a ceremony held June 10 at the Freeport Performing Arts Center.

The twists, turns and pounding of the sport require sturdy knees, and Bengtsson, one of the top female high school skiers in the state, has endured major problems with both knees. She suffered tears to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in each knee, both requiring surgery, the first time as a freshman and the second this past winter. Bengtsson, also an accomplished runner, had to sit out this year’s track season. But she didn’t forget about her teammates, serving as track team manager.

On Saturday, June 14, starting at 11 a.m., Bengtsson and her fellow seniors will march to “Pomp and Circumstance” at Merrill Auditorium in Portland and receive their diplomas. Former Principal Tom Edwards will be the guest speaker, and it will be the final graduation ceremony for Bob Strong, who has been principal at Freeport High for six years.

“It will be exciting,” Bengtsson said of graduation. “There will be a lot of different memories.”

Despite her injuries, Bengtsson will graduate as one of the top skiers at Freeport High in some time. She won the state Class C state championships in both giant slalom and slalom in 2011 and 2012, and has competed in the Junior Olympics. She also finished first in the 1,600 meter run in the 2012 Western Maine Track Championships.

The last two winters, Bengtsson attended school and skied at Mount Mansfield Academy in Stowe, Vt., all the while taking Freeport High courses through an online arrangement. Bengtsson graduates with a grade-point average of 94.6.

She will attend Holderness School in New Hampshire this fall, then plans to transfer the following year to the University of Vermont, which attracts some of the top high school ski prospects in the country.

“At the start of high school, I really wanted to see how far I could go in the sport,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to ski D-1 (Division I). I really like UVM a lot.”

Bengttson was cruising along, winning the Class C slalom race by a whopping 7.8 seconds as a freshman. Athletic Director Craig Sickels said that margin of victory is almost unheard of.

Sickels praises Bengttson’s achievements.

“I have two sons,” Sickels said, “and if I had a daughter I would want her to grow up to be just like Elly. She’s a class act.”

Bengttson has overcome huge challenges, Sickels said.

“Certainly, Elly’s had to overcome her own adversity with the two ACL injuries,” he said. “I never once heard her say, ‘Oh why me?’”

Bengttson was aware of the significance of her margin of victory in the state ski race.

“It’s a really big amount,” she said. “If somebody wins by a second, that’s a lot.”

Bengttson skied the remainder of the season and ran track, all the while unaware of a torn ACL in her right knee. Finally, she noticed some swelling. Surgery was necessary.

“It took six months for recovery,” she said. “I did a lot of water exercises. It’s quite a process, for sure. It’s not fun at all. Then it happened again this year.”

This time, it was the left knee, and it didn’t take as long for Bengtsson to notice the problem. She had been training for the Winter Carnival in Stowe, Vt. Ski season done. No track her senior year.

“We have a pretty cool track team,” Bengtsson said, “so I still wanted to be part of it. I know what I have to go through. My other leg is back at full strength. I had aspirations for this season, but I’m coming back.”

Bengtsson attended Mount Mansfield from November until the beginning of April her junior and senior years, to hone her skiing skills. There, she worked with tutors to take the Freeport High curriculum.

“It’s definitely been a lot of work, but it’s paid off,” she said.

She is undecided on a college major, but is considering environmental science, medical school or marine biology.

Her proudest athletic achievement at Freeport?

“Winning the state championship in giant slalom and slalom my sophomore year,” Bengtsson said. “I really did well in the slalom.”

Bengtsson, daughter of Jeff and Donna Bengtsson of Freeport, grew up in a skiing family. She started on the slopes at the tender age of 3, in fact.

“Lots of family and friends went to Sugarloaf,” she recalled. “We became a weekend family. We’d go up Friday night, ski on Saturday and head back home.”

Bengtsson joined the competitive Carrabasset Valley Academy ski program at 9, and by the time she began attending Freeport Middle School, she was a rising star in the sport.

She credits Alpine ski coach Eric Wallace and running coaches Josh Zolla and Brian Berkemeyer as being instrumental in her high school success.

Ten to graduate from Merriconeag

Merriconeag Waldorf School will hold its fifth graduation ceremony at 2 p.m. on Saturday, June 14, in its Community Hall, at 57 Desert Road in Freeport.

Ten seniors will graduate from the school. Faculty members David Sloan and David Barham, and board Chairwoman Martha Eshoo will hand out diplomas.

Patrice Maynard, former Merriconeag development director and an official with the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America, will be the featured speaker.

All 10 graduating seniors will speak. The entire student body, as well as faculty, will sing.

Elly Bengtsson powers past a giant slalom gate in a ski race. The graduating Freeport High School senior will attend Holderness School next year, then plans to be a Division I skier at the University of Vermont. 

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