Abbey Leonardi concluded her stellar high school running career last Saturday with a pair of wins at the State Class A track and field championships. The Kennebunk senior won the 1,600 and 3,200 meter races despite missing a month of training this spring with a strained tendon in her leg.
Leonardi finished the 1,600 in 4 minutes, 56.87 seconds, a little more than five seconds off her state record pace in 2010. She caught Lawrence’s Erzsebet Nagy on the final lap and held her off down the stretch.
“I missed more than a month of training," Leonardi said, "so it was just more about being mentally tough."
Leonardi won 3,200 later in the meet in 10:45.49, again a few seconds off the state record she set in 2010. In four years, Leonardi has posted four cross country individual championships and 12 outdoor track titles. She holds state records in 1,600, mile, 3,000, 3,200 and the two mile.
She is widely considered Maine’s best female high school runner since Joan Benoit Samuelson, who won the inaugural women’s marathon at the 1984 Olympics. This year Leonardi finished fourth in the prestigious Foot Locker Cross Country Nationals, setting a PR of 17:35.30 in the 5,000 meter event.
“What we’ve tried to do is not go too crazy with her in high school and chase every big meet,” her father Jack said.
Abbey will attend the University of Oregon next fall on a running scholarship and will step on campus with plenty of gas left in her tank. She hasn’t run indoor track in high school nor has she over-trained.
“I actually think she can get a lot better,” her dad said. “We’ve tried not to stress her too much. I think Abbey’s at the low end of the top kids in high school in terms of mileage.”
Her dad got her started in running and said he got up to speed in training methods as she progressed. He credits middle school coach Mike LeBlanc as an important influence. As she’s grown older, Leonardi has trained with Kristen Barry, a former 2:40 marathon runner and Falmouth’s Sheri Piers, the top American female finisher in this year’s Boston marathon.
“She definitely has some physical talent but she works as hard as anybody at it,” jack Leonardi said of his daughter. “She’s really methodical about what she does. She’s pretty educated about what she’s doing.”
Leonardi won’t complete in this weekend’s New England meet in Saco, but will follow a training regimen to get her ready for cross country season next fall. Her only appearance in the new England cross country meet was her freshman year when she finished first. Oregon is one of the country’s strongest track and cross country school. Last fall, the Ducks placed fifth in the NCAA cross country meet and return five of their top seven runners.
“She had lots of opportunities (to attend other schools),” Jack said, “but she definitely is choosing to jump into the big pond. If she didn’t give the biggest stage a chance, she wished she would have.”
Leonardi, who has a twin sister, is a straight A student who also loves to cook.
“She’ll probably end up studying business and hope to apply that in some food area,” her father said.
FRIEDLAND, SILVERMAN CLAIM TENNIS TITLES
Lincoln Academy junior Justin Friedland won his first state singles tennis championship at Colby College recently as did Brunswick sophomore Maisie Silverman. Friedland, the No. 5 seed, defeated he top two seeds o win the boys title. He outlasted defending state champ and top-seed Patrick Ordway in the semifinals in three sets before defeating No. 2 seed Justin Brogan of Falmouth 6-4, 5-7, 6-3 in the championship match.
Silverman, who reached last year’s final, edged Falmouth’s Annie Criscione 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 in the championship match. She also needed three sets to defeat Falmouth freshman Olivia Leavitt in the semifinals.
WATERVILLE GIRLS WIN 6TH STRAIGHT
Waterville won its sixth straight Class B girls outdoor track and field state championship Saturday, scoring 145 points to 85 for runner-up Greely. Waterville junior Bethanie Brown set state records in the 1,600 and 3,200 meter runs, finishing the 1,600 in four minutes 55.23 seconds and the 3,200 in 10:34.79. Lake Region’s Kate Hall set a Class B state record in the 100 meter dash in 12.33.
Falmouth and York shared the boys title with 93 points apiece. Falmouth’s 4x100 meter relay team of Jacob Buhelt , Matt Kingry, Grant Burfiend and Jimmy Polewaczyk set a Class B state record in a time of 43.99 seconds.
In Class C, Sacopee Valley nipped North Yarmouth Academy 64.5 - 62 to win the boys title while Orono handily won the girls championship with 126.75 points.. The Class A meet was delayed until the completion of the pole vault on Wednesday.
Scarborough rallied to nip Edward Little for the girls title while Sanford held onto its lead over Cheverus to win the boys title.
FERNANDES WIN GATORADE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Marshwood senior Luke Fernandes was named Maine Gatorade Baseball Player of the Year. On the mound, Fernandes went 4-1 in leading the Hawks to a 14-2 regular-season record and the top seed in Western Maine Class A. In 30 2/3 innings, the 6-foot-1, 170-pound right-hander posted an earned run average of 1.83 with 47 strikeouts and four walks.
He also played shortstop and batted .404 with 14 RBIs. He’ll attend Boston College o a baseball scholarship next fall.
ROSIGNOL COMMITS TO UMAINE
Parise Rosignol, who is just finishing her sophomore year at Van Buren High School, has verbally committed to play basketball for the University of Maine in 2014.
“It’s always been a dream of mine,” Rosignol told the Bangor Daily News.
In her first two seasons, Rosignol scored 1,205 points. This season, the 5-foot-7 guard averaged 29.7 points, 8.3 assists and 7.5 rebounds. Her father Matt, who is also her coach, attended Maine from 1985-89 and scored more than 1,000 career points. Her brother Derrick is also a student at Maine.
BASEBALL, SOFTBALL PLAYOFFS UNDER WAY
Baseball and softball playoffs began this week and will finish with state championship games in four classes on June 16. No baseball team in the state went unbeaten during the regular season. The top seeds in the East are Bangor (Class A), Presque Isle (Claas B), Orono (Class C) and Central Aroostook (Class D). In the West it’s Marshwood (Class A), Greely (Class B), Dirigo (Class C) and Buckfield (Class D).
ELLSWORTH COACHES REACHES 2ND MILESTONE
Brian Higgins, who has coached the Ellsworth boys and girls tennis teams for more than 40 years, recorded his 600th career victory last week when the girls team won an Eastern Maine Class B quarterfinal match against Hermon. Higgins recorded his 599th victory the day before when the boys won a quarterfinal match. Higgins began both programs 32 years ago.
The 600 wins was the second milestone this school year for Higgins who recorded his 500th career victory as the school’s boys soccer coach last fall.
MDI SOCCER COACH RETIRES
John Rosenfeld, who started the boys' soccer program at Mount Desert island High School in Bar Harbor, is retiring after 35 years on the job. Rosenfeld led the Trojans to 254 wins and 27 post-season appearances, highlighted by Eastern Maine Class B championships in 1994 and 2000.
A Needham, Mass., native, Rosenfled played soccer at the University of Maine from 1969-72 and after moving to Bar Harbor applied for the boys soccer job a year later.