Emma Abbott is a senior captain for a Bonny Eagle cross country program aiming for its third Class A state title in four years. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

STANDISH — The last time she won an individual running race, Emma Abbott was in middle school. At Bonny Eagle High School, however, she learned that winners don’t always have to be first across the finish line.

Abbott is a senior captain for a Scots cross country program aiming for its third Class A state title in four years. As a freshman and again last fall as a junior, Abbott was the fifth and final scorer for her team at the state meet, wrapping up a Bonny Eagle championship. She was named all-SMAA honorable mention for cross country last fall.

“She’s consistent, takes care of herself and is always ready to race,” said Scots Coach Mike Burleson. “It’s a nice constant to have. She’s a super mature kid who does everything you ask, and the young kids look up to her.”

In winter, Abbott plays basketball and in spring runs outdoor track, where she has been part of a Class A state championship 3,200-meter relay three years in a row. She also holds down a part-time job and, academically, is ranked among the top five in her class.

Q: What’s the appeal of cross country?

A: People ask me that a lot. In middle school, cross country was the only thing they offered for sixth graders. I thought I’d give it a try. I continued doing it to stay in shape for basketball, but it kind of turned into more than that over the years.

Q: Bonny Eagle has won five cross country state titles in seven years, under three different head coaches. What’s the secret to your program’s continued success?

A: We’ve had a lot of talented runners come through. It’s been awesome being able to run with them.

Q: The two most recent state titles came on the flatter course at Belfast. This year’s state meet is back at Twin Brook in Cumberland, where Camden Hills won in Class A two years ago. Is there something about the hillier terrain that doesn’t agree with Bonny Eagle?

A: My sophomore year our top seven were having health issues. I hope we do well at the course this year. Everyone’s healthy right now, which is very helpful.

Q: What health issues have you had to deal with?

A: My freshman year I had runner’s knee, so I was out for most of the season, until a week or two before states.

Q: And that’s been a recurring problem?

A: It was worse that year. Since then, I’ve been doing exercises that my trainer gave me, so it’s been better. I’ve been doing those during practice, just to make sure it stays (healthy).

Q: You’re running fourth on the team this fall. Is there more pressure on you because of that position, where a few seconds here or there can lead to significant point swings in the team score?

A: I didn’t realize how important your four, five and even your six runners are. Your top three could be really good, but if your four and five are back too far, it could change things.

Q: What do you think about during races?

A: I like to keep our No. 3 runner in sight, to make sure I’m not too far off. That helps me, mentally. And even though it’s painful, I’ve got to get through it and move up as much as I can in the last mile.

Q: Can you tell us about the coincidences involving your name?

A: Well, we have an Emmaline (Pendleton) and another Emma (Noonan) on our team.

Q: And you’re not the only Emma Abbott who runs cross country in Maine. Have you met Emma Abbott, the senior from Freeport?

A: We did, at the Southern Maine Classic (in Gorham). We were in line waiting to use the bathroom and the back of her sweatshirt had E. ABBOTT on it. So I said, ‘What’s your name?’ She said, ‘Emma Abbott.’ I said, “Me, too!’

Q: And she has red hair as well?

A: Which is even more crazy.

Q: How do you juggle sports, school and work?

A: Sometimes it gets really stressful. I have been working one day a week after practice, but I’m going to just work Sundays now.

Q: How are you approaching the college application process?

A: I feel like it’s going to be stressful but kind of exciting, too. I decided I want to stay in New England. There’s a program I’m interested in doing called Semester at Sea. My grandfather taught music classes on the ship so my mom grew up traveling the world. She said she’s been around the world three times because of this program and I really want to experience that.

Q: Do you have a favorite subject in school?

A: It used to be English but this year it’s been shifting more toward science. I’m taking AP Bio and Advanced Health and another science class.

Q: What’s the other science class?

A: It’s called Science Island. We create these little project things that would help us survive on an island if we ever got stranded. We learn how to tie different types of knots. We made a bow-and-drill thing (to start a fire). Right now, we have a metal sheet. We’re trying to reflect sunlight to make (fire) off that, too. It’s pretty fun.

Q: Emma Abbott also appears in children’s literature?

A: Yes, there’s a book with an Emma Abbott by (Portland-born author and illustrator) Chris Van Dusen called The Circus Ship. I got to meet him, too, and have him sign it.

Q: What’s it like to have the same name as a character in a book?

A: Pretty cool, especially because they’re hanging out with all those circus animals who get stranded on an island, actually. So I’d be prepared.

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