Mt. Ararat’s Lisandro Berry-Gaviria leads the way as Brunswick’s Will Shaughnessy tries to keep pace during last season’s Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference cross country championships in Augusta. Kennebec Journal file photo

One of Lisandro Berry-Gaviria’s earliest memories of Will Shaughnessy came near the beginning of middle school cross country.

Berry-Gaviria, running for Mt. Ararat Middle School, kept on cutting off Brunswick’s Shaughnessy during the race and was able to take the win at the end. When he went for the hand shake, Shaughnessy left his competitor hanging.

Instead of letting his anger fester, Shaughnessy showed sportsmanship at the end of the season.

“What was really cool was at the end of the season he came up to me at the end of the last race and shook my hand and said, ‘Sorry about the other race,’” Berry-Gaviria said. “I thought that was really big of him. He’s a high-character guy, a good sport and I think that was the moment that kicked off our friendship a bit.”

Since then, both runners have been competitors and friends with the relationship strengthening during their senior years.

Berry-Gaviria won the distance double at this winter’s Class A indoor track state meet, winning the 1 mile in 4:22.20 and the 2 mile in 9:20.99 for Mt. Ararat. Shaughnessy finished runner-up in the 2 mile with a time of 9:30.92, breaking his school’s record, a goal for the senior coming into the season.

It wasn’t always this close.

Will Shaughnessy, right, and Lisandro Berry-Gaviria stand together after a training session Wednesday morning at Bowdoin College. Shaughnessy, of Brunswick and Berry-Gaviria, of Mt. Ararat, compete against each other regularly during the scholastic seasons. Adam Robinson /Times Record

Berry-Gaviria battled injuries his eighth-grade year and a bit of his freshman year but was relatively injury free since, allowing his times to sky rocket early. Shaughnessy battled injuries his entire sophomore year, setting him back a bit in pursuit of his rival.

“I remember telling him after the indoor mile at states when we were cooling down together and you had a somewhat crappy race, and I remember telling you, ‘You know, you’re going to beat me one day,’” Berry-Gaviria said. “‘I have faith in that. I’m not just saying that because I want you to feel better about yourself, that’s just the kind of person that you are.’ No matter what running threw at him, he got back up and kept going. Someone with that tenacity is going to make it right to the top at some point.”

Shaughnessy saw progress more rapidly his junior year as injuries subsided and things started to click.

“Junior year was a breakthrough of sorts,” Shaughnessy said. “I still was being really cautious about injuries and not training as hard as I could. Then, senior year, I was able to get consistency and make some big jumps. Getting those consistent weeks together, getting my mileage  up and I got really focused.”

The two runners started to train together more and more their senior years as both started to really blossom into star runners.

Berry-Gaviria committed to the University of Notre Dame, while Shaughnessy committed to the University of Pennsylvania.

“This past year, cross country and indoor, has been really, really cool because we are equals now,” Berry-Gaviria said. “Just being able to build off one another, we have definitely had a strong friendship over the last year. Not just as runners, but as friends. We aren’t teammates but we are as close to teammates as we could be.”

Shaughnessy will point out that their head-to-head record is lopsided toward the Mt. Ararat star, while Berry-Gaviria is quick to point out a few wins Shaughnessy pulled out in middle school. Some might get frustrated by losing to the same person, but Shaughnessy maintains a positive outlook on the situation.

“I’ve been chasing him for a while and this is the year that I got semi-close to him,” Shaughnessy said. “He’s always been way better than me. Our head-to-head total is probably 2-60. Some people are like, ‘Don’t you wish he didn’t exist or something?’ And I say, ‘No, no way.’ I don’t know if I would be as good as I am now if he wasn’t there to push me. A big goal of mine is to beat him and so he’s really pushed me to improve this year. It’s been good.”

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 outdoor track season was scrapped as schools moved to online learning. Both had different perspectives on missing out on one last season, with Berry-Gaviria thinking of what could have been.

“It took awhile for it to sink in,” Berry-Gaviria said. “When it officially got canceled it set in over a long period of time. It sucked. I had, personally, a lot riding on this season. It was really a bummer but it gave me a lot of perspective on my experience in high school in general and things I had taken for granted. I definitely passed up a lot of opportunities to compete at a higher level at New Englands and Nationals a few times throughout my career because I kind of always felt that there will be another season. I took for granted that I was going to have that opportunity later in my high school career but I never would have seen this happen. It’s a lesson well-learned, I guess.”

For Shaughnessy, a missed season is obviously negative, but his incredible progress over the last two years, mixed with an injury that would have hampered his spring, made it hurt a little less.

“The blow was softened a little bit because right before we left school I had an injury that put me out for about a month so I wouldn’t have had a great outdoor season anyways,” Shaughnessy said. “It just sucks that it’s my last time and we have a new track at Brunswick and it would have been my first meet at the track and that can’t happen.”

Neither know what the fall holds in terms of school, cross country, the ongoing pandemic and so-on, but they both know their friendship will continue through it.

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