Ruth White of Orono High crosses the finish line to win the girls’ race at the Beach to Beacon High School Mile in August, while Joan Benoit Samuelson holds the tape. In the fall, White won titles for a second consecutive year at the Class C state meet and New England championships. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Last year, she was something of a surprise. This year, everyone in New England with a passing knowledge of high school cross country knew about Ruth White, the dynamo from Orono.

“She would prefer to be below the radar, that’s just who she is,” said Lin White, her father and Orono High’s head coach. “She doesn’t want a lot of attention.”

Of course, winning back-to-back New England titles to go along with consecutive Class C individual state championships does tend to attract notice. Without fail, however, the first words she speaks in any interview are about team.

Orono has won two straight Class C state championships. The 2021 squad included older sister, Nora (now at Marist College), and the current team includes younger sister Clara, a freshman.

“The success of the team, that’s her focus,” Lin White said. “She’s proud of what she does, but she really enjoyed having her younger sister on the team and the whole group of girls.”

A junior, Ruth White is the fourth Maine schoolgirl to win individual New England honors, joining Abbey Leonardi of Kennebunk (2008), Emily Durgin of Cheverus (2009) and Sofie Matson of Falmouth (2019).


White is the only Maine athlete, male or female, to repeat as New England champion. For the second year in a row, she’s our choice as Varsity Maine Runner of the Year for girls’ cross country.

As a sophomore last fall, White broke a Belfast course record at the Festival of Champions. This season, she lowered her own mark to 17 minutes, 27.15 seconds, beating a 500-plus field by more than half a minute.

She won by more than a minute in both the Northern Maine regional and Class C state meet. At the state championships, the only girl in any enrollment class to come within a minute of White’s 18:02 clocking was Class B champion Cary Drake of York in 18:51.

Joan Benoit Samuelson, the 1984 Olympic marathon gold medalist, was at the finish line at the Class C state meet in Cumberland to congratulate White. Then came five teammates, solidifying Orono’s team victory.

“So that was a really special couple of minutes,” White said. “(Samuelson) is definitely inspirational to me and to a lot of other girls in the state.”

When asked about coming into the season as a known quantity, White immediately deflected the question: “I think the big focus was on the team this year.”


She went on to praise the emergence of Clara White and fellow ninth-grader Maya Boyington, who finished fifth and sixth in Class C. Seniors Megan Gerbi, Ellie Brooks and Katherine Kohtala also placed among the top 20, providing a comfortable margin of victory for the Red Riots.

“There was definitely pressure individually,” White admitted, “but I think what I wanted to do most was help the team. I feel like nothing is done alone and everything is better with teammates, with a good team to practice with every day.”

As it happens, she’s practicing for another few days because she was one of 40 girls nationwide to qualify for the Champs Sports Cross Country Championships (formerly Foot Locker) in San Diego on Dec. 10. White punched her ticket by placing fourth at the Northeast Regional held Nov. 26 at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx.

“It was really fun to be in a race where I wasn’t in the front,” White said. “I had girls around me pushing me, and ahead of me. In some ways, it’s easier to focus on trying to pass people and keep up with people than it is to try and think about staying ahead.”

Of course, the urban setting was also an eye-opening experience. White had never been to New York City.

“Cross country courses in Maine don’t have giant buildings right next to them or bridges that cross over a highway,” she said. “So it was fun to be somewhere different and experience new things.”

White will be the ninth Maine schoolgirl to compete in the national cross country finals. She joins New England champs Leonardi, Durgin and Matson, along with Kirstin Sandreuter of Greely (2013), Gladys Ganiel of Narraguagus (1994), Molly Dinan of Greely (1993), Laura Duffy of Kennebunk (1986) and Susannah Beck of Waynflete (1985).

Leonardi, who went on to run for the University of Oregon, had the best result. She finished fourth in 2011.

“I’m just hoping to enjoy the experience,” White said, “and not really worrying about place.”

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