The summer before Sofie Matson entered high school, Falmouth Coach Jorma Kurry saw her potential – when he was training with some of Maine’s best male distance runners and a tall, young girl effortlessly ran past them.

“And they were good runners. It was pretty funny,” said Kurry, one of Falmouth’s two cross country head coaches.

After leading the state as the top girls’ runner as a freshman last year, Matson did so again this season, winning every race she ran in Maine – including the Southern Maine Classic, which she won in a state-best time of 18 minutes, 15.53 seconds, the Festival of Champions (18:21.52), the Southern Class A Regional and the Class A state meet. Then she improved on her 10th-place finish from New Englands last year and took third, 30 seconds ahead of the next Maine runner.

On Saturday, she was eighth at the Foot Locker Northeast Regional (14th last year), with the top 10 runners qualifying for the nationals Dec. 8 in San Diego.

For all of this, Matson is again the Maine Sunday Telegram’s runner of the year in girls’ cross country.

Aside from Matson’s pure athletic ability, her coaches have been impressed this year with the way managed, in every race, to keep to her race plan regardless of weather, conditions or competition.

“She’s very independent,” said Danny Paul, Falmouth’s other coach. “She knows herself. And she likes to run. She really likes to run.”

Matson proved that at the New England Championships, where she finished third on a sloppy, wet and mud-caked course when a personal-best time was not possible. While the mud at the start slowed her, she still went out with the leaders. She was seeded fifth among runners returning from last year’s race and finished third.

“She has a good poker face,” Kurry said. “I honestly don’t think she pays attention to the other runners. She’s pretty mentally tough.”

Matson said before this season she read the memoir “Let Your Mind Run,” by Olympian Deena Kastor and she used it as a blueprint for her sophomore season. The memoir detailed how Kastor almost gave up racing after college, but then while training in Colorado learned to focus her thoughts on being encouraging and hopeful to herself in races.

Kastor went on to set American records in the marathon and half-marathon, and won the bronze medal in the women’s marathon at the 2004 Athens Games.

“I think that book helped,” Matson said. “Now in races I try to keep an open mind and think that what is happening in the first mile does not decide the race. A lot of your mindset has to come from you. I’ve always been an independent person. That’s why I think I really enjoy running.”

Matson wanted a personal-best time this season and improved her time only by 2 seconds. But she also knows cross country is a sport filled with variables – weather, course conditions and different terrains – that didn’t always swing in her favor.

So she focused on winning every race or improving on her finish from last year.

“One goal this year was to stay calm during races,” Matson said. “I think I did. I tried to stay more relaxed. New England’s went a lot better than I expected because of that.”

Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be reached at 791-6452 or:

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Twitter: FlemingPph