Orono’s Ruth White broke her own course record with a time of 16:56.92 at the Festival of Champions in Belfast during the regular season, and later won the Class C North title, Class C state championship and a third-straight New England championship on the same course. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

The best performances by Maine runners at the Foot Locker Cross Country national championships have been second place by Louis Luchini of Ellsworth in 1998 and fourth place Abbey Leonardi of Kennebunk in 2011.

Both came on their second trip to Nationals, for which only 10 runners from each of four regions qualify.

So where is Ruth White, the three-time New England champion from Orono, setting her sights next weekend on her second trip to San Diego’s Balboa Park?

“They score out each region,” she said with complete sincerity, “and hopefully I can help the Northeast team do well.”

That, in a nutshell, is Ruth White. For this most individual of races, pared down to 40 of the best schoolgirl runners in the country, White’s focus is directed not inward but toward a team assembled last weekend in Boston’s Franklin Park at the Northeast Regional that will disperse after next weekend.

“I’m a little biased,” said Lin White, Orono’s longtime coach and her father, “but she does it in all the right ways. I’m proud of how she does things.”


For the third year in a row, Ruth White is our choice as Varsity Maine Runner of the Year for girls’ cross country.

A senior who stands 4-foot-8 but remains head-and-shoulders above her peers, White could have coasted through September and much of October knowing her most difficult races would be at season’s end. Instead, she led Orono to a sixth straight Class C state title by racing hard nearly every weekend.

Until White came along, no schoolgirl runner had broken 17 minutes, 30 seconds on the 5-kilometer course in Belfast. She did it once as a sophomore, once as a junior and four times this fall. She even ran a pair of sub-17 races at Belfast this season, at the Festival of Champions and the state meet, both times chased by junior Teanne Ewings of the Houlton/Greater Houlton Christian Academy co-op team.

“I don’t think I ever imagined the times that I would run, so I was really happy to break 17 … as well as being able to contribute to the team score and the team state championship,” White said. “(Ewings) definitely pushes me to go faster. Hopefully it helps her, too, to run faster.”

Belfast also hosted the New England meet, where the White and Ewings went 1-2 to echo the 2008 championship when Leonardi and fellow freshman Emily Durgin of Bonny Eagle led a Maine sweep at the top. This time, four more Mainers – Cary Drake of York, Soren Stark-Chessa of Maine Coast Waldorf, Addy Thibodeau of Bonny Eagle and Samantha Moore of Portland – joined White and Ewings in the top 15.

“Girls’ cross country in the state right now is incredible,” said Lin White. “There’s just so much good running going on.”


“It’s just fun to be a part of that,” Ruth said, “and fun to be pushing each other in races.”

Elite runners aren’t her only concern. After finishing, she will congratulate those who come in near her before heading back along the course to offer support to those still running. It’s something she started in summer track at age 6, shadowing her older sister Nora (now at Marist), and continues to practice.

“It’s part of the camaraderie of the sport,” Ruth said. “What makes it great is that everyone is so supportive of each other. We’re all high school kids who love running and racing.”

White raced twice outside the state this fall. In late September, she won the Manchester (N.H.) Invitational over a field of more than 200, and then she placed third at the Foot Locker New England Regional behind Zariel Macchia of New York and Ellie Shea of Massachusetts. In February, both Macchia and Shea ran for Team USA at the U-20 World Cross Country Championships in Australia.

After narrowing her college list, White decided to continue her career at Boise State in Idaho, where she can study mechanical and biomedical engineering as well as compete for a Division I program. Visiting campus, running area trails and meeting coaches and future teammates proved convincing.

“The focus and drive and team-oriented mentality of the athletes seems like something that would be great to be a part of,” she said. “I’m just really excited to be a part of it next year.”

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