In August, a coach asked Yarmouth senior Abby Hamilton to write down her goals for the upcoming cross country season.

After thinking a bit, Hamilton came up with this:

Try to get under 18:30 in the 5K.

Her coach suggested something different: Try to be a state champion.

“I didn’t think that was a possibility,” said Hamilton, who had placed sixth in Class B as a junior, behind three other returning runners. “So I wrote: Top 3.”

It seemed logical, considering that Greely senior Katherine Leggat-Barr was the two-time defending Class B state champion and Mt. Desert Island senior Tia Tardy, a transfer from Orono, was the two-time defending Class C champ.

Hamilton beat them both. In fact, she turned in the fastest time of the day (18 minutes, 5 seconds), regardless of class, by more than 10 seconds at the Class B state meet in Belfast. A week later, she was Maine’s top finisher, ninth overall, at the New England championships in Rhode Island.

“I definitely didn’t expect this season to go the way it did,” said Hamilton, the Maine Sunday Telegram Runner of the Year. “I’m very surprised, and very happy with the results.”

An honor student who is clearly humble and rather quiet, Hamilton listens well and does every drill to the best of her ability, said Yarmouth Coach Bob Morse, who figures the groundwork for Hamilton’s stellar fall season was laid in spring success and summer mileage.

In outdoor track in June, Hamilton won the Class B state title at 3,200 meters.

“When you win a big race and you become a state champion,” Morse said, “that changes your whole perspective of yourself.”

Hamilton said she doubled her summer mileage from 2015 and made a point of running every day.

“A big part of it was knowing this was my last cross country season in high school,” she said. “I wanted to make the most of it.”

Her opening meet came in Cape Elizabeth, where she ran away from a field of 43 to win by nearly two minutes in 17:59 over three miles, becoming only the second girl to break 18 minutes on that course. A week later in the heat at York, she beat junior teammate Anneka Murrin, who finished ahead of Hamilton at last fall’s state meet, and Falmouth sophomore Malaika Pasch, who would go on to win the Class A state title.

Then came the 5-kilometer races. As a junior, Hamilton’s best time was the 19:18 she ran at the Manchester (N.H.) Invitational. As a senior, she ran five races at that distance and every time broke the 19-minute barrier, including a late-November performance at the Foot Locker Northeast Regionals in which she placed 20th.

It wasn’t easy to sit out the Western Maine Conference meet – “I like to race every week,” she said, “but my coaches clearly know what they’re doing, so listening to them is always best” – and Hamilton also missed the Festival of Champions (Tardy, Pasch, Murrin and Leggat-Barr swept the top four places) because of an injury unrelated to running.

“She was very disappointed that she couldn’t race,” Morse said of the Festival. “But I think everything fell into place.”

Without testing herself in a big meet, Hamilton found herself unsure of what to expect at the South regional at Twin Brook Recreation Area in Cumberland. On a rainy, chilly morning, she won by 23 seconds.

A week later, she finally made the trip to Belfast and earned the Class B crown by 11 seconds.

“Class B this year was very talented,” she said. “I was definitely intimidated, but I just became more confident at the season went along.”

Telegram All-State team

Kassidy Dill, Orono senior: Class C state champion, Dill placed 51st at the New England meet in Rhode Island. She posted a top-10 finish at the Festival of Champions in Belfast in early October.

Abby Hamilton, Yarmouth senior: Hamilton, the Class B state champion (18:05), placed ninth in New England and 20th at the Foot Locker Northeast Regional, both times finishing first among Maine runners.

Louise Holway, Kennebunk senior: In her first year of cross country, Holway was runner-up by less than half a second in both the Class A state meet and South regional, and was 32nd at the New England meet.

Katherine Leckbee, Mt. Ararat junior: The North regional and KVAC champion, Leckbee placed third in the Class A state meet in 18:42. She was 5 seconds shy of all-New England honors, finishing 29th.

Katherine Leggat-Barr, Greely senior: The two-time Class B state champion placed third (18:14) this year and was the second Mainer at New Englands, taking 12th overall.

Kathryn Miller, York junior: Miller placed sixth in Class B (18:57) and was one of nine girls in all classes who broke 19 minutes on the 5-kilometer course in Belfast.

Anneka Murrin, Yarmouth junior: Murrin placed fifth in Class B (18:46) and earned all-New England honors by virtue of a 24th place. She finished third in the Festival of Champions.

Malaika Pasch, Falmouth sophomore: The Class A state champion (18:22), Pasch placed 14th in New England – fourth among Maine runners. She was the Festival of Champions runner-up.

Tia Tardy, Mt. Desert Island senior: A two-time Class C state champion, she was the runner-up in Class B this fall after winning the North regional. She earned all-New England honors (24th) and was the Festival of Champions winner.

Carolyn Todd, Greely sophomore: Todd placed fourth at the Class B state meet (18:39) and earned all-New England honors by finishing 13th overall, the third Maine runner across the line.

Coach of the Year

Will Fulford, Biddeford: Since taking over a program struggling to field a five-runner team six years ago, Fulford built things up to the point where this fall, the Tigers had 15 girls and placed fourth of 17 teams in Class A South to qualify for the state meet for the first time in 22 years. Sadly, barely a month after the state meet, Fulford collapsed and died at 29 after a treadmill workout. “The girls improved drastically throughout the season,” said Dennis Walton, Biddeford’s athletic director. “Will was the reason so many of these girls gained a passion for cross country and distance running.”



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