Athletes in their first year of high school are often timid and uncertain, just hoping to fit in with more mature peers.

Lisandro Berry-Gaviria of Bowdoinham was nothing like that when he arrived at Mt. Ararat High’s preseason cross country sessions two years ago. Already he had read and digested The Youth and Teen Running Encyclopedia and held strong opinions about how much he should train and how often he should race.

“He is self-motivated and he knows the sport inside and out,” said Diane Fournier, who has been coaching distance running for more than 40 years at the Topsham high school. “Actually, that was a struggle for us when we first started working together.”

The headstrong teen eventually realized the sagacious coach had a lot to offer. Both have strong personalities and opinions.

“As I’ve gotten more used to her way of going about things and training,” Berry-Gaviria said, “I don’t feel that gung-ho anymore. I feel like what she does works. I’m glad I listened to her a lot more now.”

Indeed, Berry-Gaviria was unbeatable in Maine this fall, winning every race he entered including a second straight Class A state championship, where his winning time of 15 minutes, 35.40 seconds at Belfast’s Troy Howard Middle School was the fastest of the season on any course in Maine.

A week later, he was Maine’s top finisher at the New England meet in Manchester, New Hampshire and sixth overall.

On Saturday in Wappinger Falls, New York, he finished third at the Nike Cross Country Northeast Regional, competing against top runners from the six New England states as well as New Jersey and Pennsylvania. He was one of the five runners to qualify for the nationals, scheduled for Dec. 1 in Portland, Oregon.

Berry-Gaviria is our choice as Maine Sunday Telegram runner of the year for boys’ cross country.

“I had some pretty lofty goals coming into the season,” he said. “Not all of them have come to fruition, but I’m still proud of what I was able to accomplish, especially at the state meet.”

The state title was his sixth. As a sophomore, he won in cross country, indoor track mile and two-mile, and outdoor 1,600 and 3,200 meters. In August, he set a course record of 4:33.7 in the Beach to Beacon High School Mile. He also set course records this fall at the Mt. Blue Relays in Farmington and the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference championship at Cony High in Augusta.

As a youngster, Berry-Gaviria occasionally joined his mom in a road race. Adelaida Gaviria grew up in Colombia, attended college in Colorado and met her future husband, Seth Berry, in graduate school at Columbia University. In sixth grade, Lisandro declined to sign up for his school’s cross country team.

“I didn’t think I’d be good enough,” he said.

The following year, his parents convinced him to give it a shot, and Berry-Gaviria quickly became the school’s top runner. An inquisitive student who still maintains a 4.0 grade point average, he read up on running and after his freshman fall added weightlifting to his training regime.

“I feel like it’s really helped me with strength at the end of races,” he said.

“I always feel like I can close really well over the last 400 meters of a race.”

College coaches have been in contact. Berry-Gaviria is visiting Cornell this weekend after his regional race Saturday. When he’s not running, he plays guitar and dabbles in photography.

As for his initial head-butting with Fournier, that’s all behind them now.

“It was a matter of trusting,” she said. “It’s been fun coaching him. I’ve never told him how he should run a race because you don’t want to be rigid. You have to be flexible out there.”

Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or

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