University of Southern Maine senior Briar Beede didn’t come out of nowhere, it just seems that way.

The Cony High School graduate ran a 5K race during the outdoor track season in 15 minutes, 24 seconds, beating his previous best by 25 seconds, and used that as a springboard to train for this fall’s cross country season. He opened the season two weeks ago by winning the Husson Harrier Classic, covering the 8K course in 28:06, and was named Little East Conference runner of the week. This is a quantum leap for Beede, who last year ran closer to the middle of the pack.

“I’ve been training a lot harder this summer, running more and just being smart about my training,” he said. “I care more this year. I really want to prove something.”

Beede began the summer by running 70 miles a week and bumped that up to 85, winning the Old Hallowell Day 5K along the way. He decided to run the Beach to Beacon just a day before the race, using a friend’s bib number, and finished the 10K event in 33:43.

“I’d never run it before,” Beede said. “It’s such a great race. I PR’d by over 30 seconds. I beat so many kids that I usually don’t.”

Beede said he always favored track, but this year cross county is his main love. He trained on the hilly course at the University of Maine at Augusta and hills around town during the summer, while mixing in swimming and biking. He also paid more attention to his diet.

“I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been,” he said.

First-year cross country coach Ryan Harkleroad attributes Beede’s success to confidence, saying the senior believes he belongs at the front of the pack this season. Harkleroad began coaching Beede during the indoor track season and has watched his transformation closely.

“It certainly has not been the same person as last year,” Harkleroad said. “He’s always known that the potential was there.”

Beede credits much of his success to Harkleroad, who he said takes a scientific approach to training. All his workouts, Beede said, have a purpose, for example, working on form or arm drive.

“Overall, he’s made me understand running more,” Beede said.

The Huskies are young this season and won’t compete with the top teams in the Northeast region. Bowdoin is ranked fifth in the national Div. 3 preseason poll and Bates sixth. Because the region is so strong, more teams will be allowed into the nationals this year, which in turn will open the field to more individuals. Beede believes he has a shot at qualifying. In last Saturday’s USM Invitational, he finished 32nd against a 19-team field of 284 runners that included the top Div. III teams in New England.

Harkleroad thinks Beede could finish in the top 10 in the same field had the race been run later in the season.

“I think if he were running this race in another month or two, there’s a possibility,” he said. “We’re slowly building up and working on different aspects of our race and our fitness.”

Harkleroad, who coaches distance runners in track, is looking forward to seeing Beede in the spring, too.

“I really think his future lies in the 10K,” he said. “I hope we can get him there in the outdoor season. He’s such a strong athlete.”

Gary Hawkins — 621-5638

ghawkins@centralmaine.com