KENNEBUNK — Graduating high school is an aspiration for the vast majority of students who traverse its halls ”“ donning the cap and gown, gathering with classmates one last time, and reveling in a moment that heralds the transition to adulthood and their own futures. It’s an important accomplishment.

But senior Ellen Noble is already accustomed to major accomplishments.

When she crosses the stage on Sunday to collect her diploma, she’ll do so as an up-and-coming star in the world of competitive bicycling. Specializing in the cyclocross event, a cross between mountain biking and street biking, Noble won a national championship in the age 17-18 category in that event in 2013, and has achieved official ranking as one of the top cyclocross competitors in the country.

She also became the first person under 18 to win the Fitchburg Longsjo Classic, the oldest cycling race in New England and second oldest in the United States.

In the world beyond high school, Noble has already made an impact.

“That’s what I like to think about going into a new situation: ”˜How can I make a lasting mark?’” she said.

She does it through training, training and more training ”“ seven days a week. Noble is currently tackling four-hour rides for three days each week in preparation for an upcoming seven-day stage race.

It’s an effort she says has made her more driven and independent, and she has her parents to thank. Both were competitive cyclists, and as a child, she delved into that world as a way to get closer to them.

“At a certain point, I fell in love with it,” she said.

In particular, she draws on her father’s memory for inspiration. He died of cancer a couple of years ago, but not before making it clear that he believed in her ability to attain greatness.

“One of the things he taught me is just going for it ”“ not fearing rejection,” said Noble. “I think sometimes how it works is that you don’t become the person you want to be until you’re put under pressure.”

When she competed in her first cyclocross event in 2010, her father predicted that she would become an elite competitor ”“ an assertion that proved prescient.

“He said, ”˜I think you’re going to be a national champion one day,’” said Noble. “It’s sad that he wasn’t around to see it, but I don’t think he would have been surprised at all.

“He was an amazing guy,” she said. “He made such an impact on everyone.”

The focus on professional cycling has resulted in a somewhat unorthodox school schedule for Noble; she didn’t attend classes every day, instead spending much of her time preparing and competing. But the school was flexible enough to accommodate her athletic commitments, allowing her to avoid homeschooling. That, in turn, resulted in her ability to develop relationships with her teachers ”“ to whom she expresses great thanks ”“ and her classmates, who’ll see her in full graduation regalia on Sunday along with the rest of them.

And her enthusiasm for those classmates extends beyond the KHS campus.

Since October, Noble has secretly been the moderator of @KHSpositivity, a Twitter account dedicated to something simple: complimenting her fellow students.

The idea is that Noble finds something compliment-worthy in each person in her graduating class, and posts it. The account has taken off, with students taking the initiative in sharing their own positive comments; and for months, the identity of the account’s moderator has been a mystery, with rumors and speculation lending an air of mystery to the Twitter feed.

“It’s been a crazy experience for me,” said Noble. “I’d find something nice about each person. I really wanted to show people the power of 140 characters ”“ you can write something negative or something positive. It’s been emotional for me to see how much a positive comment can make a difference.”

Noble has been scrambling in recent weeks to make sure that each student receives a compliment on the feed before high school is over. Aside from being merely a nice gesture, it’s also been a learning experience.

“I get to know all these things about all these people,” she said. And she didn’t do it to become popular or well-known; in fact, Noble plans to hand off the reigns so that the feed can continue next year.

Now that the veil has been lifted and her identity revealed, Noble can relax.

Sort of. There’s still the whole biking thing.

To that end, Noble plans to race for her collegiate team when she attends the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in the fall. It will be her third year racing professionally. In the short term, her goal is to be selected for the Elite Cyclocross World Championships; in the long term, she’d like to run her own business. Something crazy and unique, she said, like a nonprofit cupcake shop, which donates funds to cancer research ”“ an ode to her late father.

So while she’s excited to graduate, Noble has already cast an eye toward the next phase of her life.

“I want to do something memorable and creative,” she said.

— Staff Writer Jeff Lagasse can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 319 or [email protected]



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