Maranacook Community School senior Caroline Colan is already excited about the upcoming Nordic ski season and with good reason. She’s coming off a cross country season in which she improved dramatically from her junior year.

“I’m looking for a big improvement,” she said. “I worked really hard this summer.”

Both sports demand stamina and mental toughness, two facets Colan worked on this summer at camps for each of them. The work paid off as Colan cut over two minutes over her 5K times in some instances, finishing sixth in the Class B state meet and 13th in the prestigious Festival of Champions. For her efforts, Colan has been selected the Kennebec Journal Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year.

Colan posted career-best time of 19 minutes, 31 seconds in the 68-school Festival of Champions, which was over two minutes better than her time in the same event in 2011.

“She brought her times down by one or two minutes in almost every single race,” Maranacook coach Rosalea Kimball said. “It was her senior year and she was going to go for it.”

Colan averaged 35-43 miles a week over the summer, took part in several captain’s runs and attended two camps, including the Green Mountain Running Camp in Lyndonville, Vt.

“Just being in that atmosphere with so many runners who wanted to improve was very encouraging,” Colan said. “One of my goals this year was to improve my mental toughness.”

Colan said she was a little surprised when she won her first three races of the season, but the success continued throughout the season. Kimball praised Colan’s level-headedness and said that helped in the big events.

“She doesn’t get super-nervous,” the coach said.

Colan’s sixth-place finish at the Class B state meet qualified her for the New England championships and once again she performed well, finishing 58th out of 265 runners. She was seeded 18th among Maine runners but turned in the 11th best time among that group. She’s already begun training for the ski season and should improve as she did in cross country. Last year, Colan finished third in the Class B state meet in the classical event and 10th in freestyle.

In the spring, she’ll compete in distance events for the track team, but cross country holds a special allure.

“It’s just really free,” Colan said. “I just really like the feeling of racing on the trails. There’s something different every race.” In addition to participating in three sports, Colan also plays tenor saxophone, something she began in fourth grade. Next year in college, she’d like to ski, run cross country and hopefully get into a concert or jazz band. She also found time to volunteer on the campaign of senator-elect Angus King.

“I made a lot of calls,” she said. “I’m interested in studying government and environmental studies in college.”

Gary Hawkins — 621-5638

ghawkins@centralmaine.com