GORHAM — Last year, York High field hockey standout Lily Posternak of York High became the first Female Athlete of the Year at the Varsity Maine Awards.

This year, Posternak became the first two-time Varsity Maine winner, sharing her moment with her field hockey teammates – York was nominated for Team of the Year after a third straight unbeaten Class B championship season.

An energized crowd of more than 450 celebrated Maine high school athletics Tuesday night at the Costello Complex at the University of Southern Maine.

“This event is so cool. I’m so happy my teammates got to come this year because it’s such a cool and different experience,” Posternak said, adding that high school sports are “Like home. That’s where the roots are. My friends and family, that’s what it stems from for me.”

Austin Lufkin, a Brewer High football, and track and field standout, was chosen as the Male Athlete of the Year.

“I guess people just like me. I didn’t think I was that good,” said Lufkin, the state’s Gaziano Award Defensive Lineman of the Year and a two-time New England champion shot putter. “I really appreciate it.”

Lufkin will play football and compete in track at Wofford University.

Posternak, who will play field hockey at Duke, is a three-time Maine Sunday Telegram field hockey player of the year. She scored 33 goals with 15 assists as a senior, and set school career records for goals (88) and assists (57). She is a member of the U.S. under-19 junior national team.

Posternak, Lufkin and the other 10 winners each received a specially made Winterstick Snowboard printed with their name, their award and the Varsity Maine logo. Each finalist in attendance was given a backpack filled with swag.

The Varsity Maine Awards is a collaborative effort between the Portland Press Herald, Kennebec Journal in Augusta and the Morning Sentinel of Waterville.

In its second year, the awards program tries to emphasize top athletes and those who contribute in important but often unheralded ways.

“We’re really proud of this event because we make it all about the kids, not just the winners but the finalists, too,” said Lisa DeSisto, the CEO of Maine Today Media. “We wanted to recognize the Clutch Players, the Unsung Heroes, and also the communities that support them.”

The athletes of the year are chosen by the newspapers’ sports staff. In the other 10 award categories, a panel of judges picked the winner from five finalists chosen through reader nominations. Over 300 nominations were submitted this year.

The inclusive nature was appreciated by Maranacook Nordic ski coach Steve DeAngelis, named the Coach of the Year for leading both his boys’ and girls’ teams to state titles.

“It was so cool the range of different people. What I love about it is including the Unsung Hero and awards like that,” DeAngelis said. “Some of the kids who won, they were not the best athlete but they did a lot of other amazing things. And there’s even room for a Nordic ski coach.”

“The categories are great,” agreed Gorham soccer standout Jackson Fotter, who added Varsity Maine Clutch Player to his Telegram boys’ soccer player of the year award. “It’s wonderful to see this sort of event to give credit to the athletes in Maine. High school athletics are really important and it helps kids in a lot of ways besides just improving skills.”

The awards show was hosted by TV personality Erin Ovalle and DJ Mijo.

With a strong sound system, twin video screens where the finalists’ selfie introductions were shown, a pre-show game center and plenty of beach balls and thundersticks, the crowd was active and engaged from the start.

That was something the Vinalhaven girls’ basketball team noticed. Seventeen members, including all 11 players, made the four-hour trip by boat and bus, and were rewarded as the Team of the Year for winning the school’s first state title in any sport this past winter.

“This whole atmosphere is definitely not a formal banquet. The lights, the music. It’s updated,” said Gilleyanne Davis-Oakes, one of Vinalhaven’s six captains. “We’ll probably hang (the snowboard) up on the wall next to our Gold Ball.”

Other winners in award categories were:

Academic Ace: Kate Guerin, Mt. Ararat, a soccer, basketball and softball standout with a 3.99 GPA.

Better Neighbor: Emily Jefferds, Scarborough, who is actively involved in raising awareness and funds to treat diabetes.

Fab Freshman: Emma Gallant, Cheverus, a soccer player and track sprinter who won two indoor state titles.

Loudest & Proudest: Super fans and community supporters Rick and Jackie Buzzell of Fryeburg.

Role Model: Austin Dutremble, Biddeford, a starter and key performer in football and basketball.

Unsung Hero: Lydia Henderson, South Portland, a leader on the basketball court.

Wow Factor: Ruslan Reiter, Maranacook, a cross country runner and skier named to the United States Paralympic Nordic ski team.


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