It wasn’t a perfect season, but Yarmouth junior Luke Laverdiere will take it.

Yes, he dropped out of two races, the first in oppressive heat in York in early September and the second while among the lead pack through two miles at the New England championships in Rhode Island.

But those will only serve as motivation for next fall, the same way he used a disappointing 2015 state meet performance to fuel the fire for this fall’s Class B state title. One week after repeating as regional champion, Laverdiere ran away from the field in the Class B championship race in Belfast to win by eight seconds over Henry Jaques of Freeport and almost a minute over Wells junior Mitchell Libby.

Five weeks earlier, on the same 5-kilometer course at Troy Howard Middle School, Laverdiere finished in 15 minutes, 33 seconds to win the Festival of Champions by 18 seconds over a field of 320.

He is our choice as Maine Sunday Telegram Runner of the Year for boys’ cross country.

“I would have liked to have had some better races at New Englands, and probably at Foot Lockers, too,” said Laverdiere, referring to his Northeast Regional finish of 38th in the Bronx in late November. “But I accomplished my basic goals. I wanted to run around 15:30, which I did at the Festival, and I wanted to win states. So I’m really happy about my season.”

Laverdiere’s time of 15:49 at the state meet was two seconds off that of Class A champion Tucker Barber, a senior from Mt. Blue. Then again, Barber had Mt. Ararat senior Cameron Meier chasing him to the end, whereas Laverdiere cruised to victory after running alone over the final two miles.

As a sophomore, Laverdiere won the regional at Twin Brook Recreation Area in Cumberland but was nearly a minute slower over the same course at the state meet and dropped to 13th, missing New England qualification. It was his first loss of the season in Maine.

Laverdiere has an asthma-like condition called vocal cord dysfunction. Small muscles on the larynx sometimes fail to open when he breathes in, making it difficult to move air in and out of his lungs. Stress can be a trigger.

He said he didn’t think VCD was to blame for the races in York or Rhode Island. At New Englands, “he just said he ran out of gas,” said Yarmouth Coach Bob Morse. “It wasn’t a breathing thing. It was something else.”

Whether the problem was nutritional or simply fatigue from racing three consecutive weekends, Laverdiere said he simply wasn’t race ready on that day and figured, rather than endure what he knew would be a painful final mile, he ought to save something for the Northeast Regional.

An honor student who plays guitar and dabbles in politics (at the school level), Laverdiere has been in touch with half a dozen colleges about continuing his running career. Like Yarmouth senior Abby Hamilton, Laverdiere used outdoor track success last spring (he won Class B titles at 800 and 1,600 meters) as a springboard to consistent summer training and a cross country state championship.

“He’s like Abby in many ways,” Morse said. “They both have a beautiful stride. They’re not struggle runners. He’s a great kid who listens very well and has a great sense of humor. His teammates like him and respect him a lot.”

The challenge, Morse said, is going to be the final mile of his toughest races.

“Both mentally and physically,” Morse said. “But he’ll get there. No doubt in my mind. As strong as he was this year, he’ll be even stronger next year.”

Telegram All-State team

Tucker Barber, Mt. Blue senior: The Class A champion with fastest time of the day (15:47), regardless of class, Barber also earned all-New England honors with a 12th-place showing.

Paul Casavant, Hampden Academy senior: The runner-up in Class A North, Casavant placed fourth at the state meet and was one of seven sub-16 runners (15:59) among all classes. He placed 41st in New England as the eighth Mainer runner.

Jacob Gamache, Edward Little senior: Gamache was sixth in Class A with a time (16:09) ninth-best of all runners, regardless of class, and was among the top 100 finishers at the New England meet.

John Hassett, George Stevens senior: The two-time Class C champion, Hassett dropped 24 seconds from his winning regional time on the same course to finish in 15:56. He was the fifth Mainer at New Englands, 35th overall.

Jacob Hickey, Winthrop senior: The Class C runner-up in 16:10 after winning the South regional, Hickey earned all-New England status by placing 20th, behind only three other Mainers.

Henry Jaques, Freeport senior: Jaques was the runner-up in Class B for the second year in a row, in a time of 15:57. He earned all-New England honors with a 19th-place showing, third among Mainers.

Luke Laverdiere, Yarmouth junior: The Class B state champion in 15:49, Laverdiere also won the Festival of Champions in October and was the first Mainer runner at the Foot Locker Northeast Regional, 38th overall.

Wyatt Lord, Hampden Academy sophomore: Lord placed fifth in Class A with a time (16:08), eighth-best of all runners, regardless of class. He was third at the North regional and among the top 100 at the New England meet.

Cameron Meier, Mt. Ararat senior: The runner-up in Class A, Meier dropped 24 seconds from his regional showing (sixth place in the North) on the same Belfast course to finish in 15:51. He placed 36th in New England.

Jeremiah Sands, Falmouth senior: The Class A South champion, Sands placed third in Class A with a 15:59 clocking. He beat all Mainers in the New England meet, placing seventh overall, and won the Western Maine Conference championship.

Coach of the Year

David Dowling, Greely: Despite losing his two fastest runners to graduation from a team that placed third in the state last fall, Dowling guided the Rangers to a 15-point victory in Class B over Wells and 34 points over two-time defending state champ Freeport, despite placing only one runner, sophomore Luke Marsanskis, among the top 12. The boys’ state title was Dowling’s ninth at Greely to go along with four girls’ state championships, including this fall.



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