The Kents Hill cross country season has been a relative breeze for sophomore Anne McKee. After going unchallenged during regular Maine Association of Independent Schools Athletic Director (MAISAD) events, McKee blew away the competition at last Saturday’s Division 4 New England prep school cross country race in Thompson, Conn., finishing the 3.1 course by more than a minute ahead of the runner-up.
The competition for McKee becomes much harder, beginning today at the New England All-Star meet at St. Mark’s School in Southborough, Mass. The meet features the top 20 finishers in each prep school division in New England and includes a heavy favorite in Phillips Andover Academy junior Anoush Shehadeh.
“There are a lot of girls near where I am,” McKee said. “And one way above the rest.”
McKee is aiming for at least a top five finish but Kents Hill coach Mike Toomey said she should never be counted out.
“Cross country is different because all the courses are different,” he said. “Anne will be in the mix. Whoever wins the race will have to beat Anne.”
Toomey brought 15 years coaching experience at the high school, prep and college levels to cross country at Kents Hill this fall. He was also a competitive runner at the high school, college and open level.
“He’s definitely one of the reasons I’ve done so well this year,’ McKee said. “He’s coached a lot of marathon runners.”
Toomey and McKee have worked on her pace in races this fall and it’s improved her performance, but she also has some intangible assets that don’t show up on a stopwatch.
“What she brings to the table that a coach can’t coach is her toughness,” Toomey said. “Nobody wants to race a kid like that.”
McKee, 15, has compiled an impressive resume of road race victories and top performances against some of the state’s best high school runners. She finished second at the preseason Laliberte Invitational and third at the prestigious Festival of Champions where she broke 19 minutes in the 5K for the first time in her career.
The Hallowell native is putting in 40-45 miles a week as her season winds down. She plans to enter the Foot Locker Regionals at the end of the month in Van Cortlandt Park, Bronx, N.Y., against the top runners in the Northeast. The top finishers qualify for the nationals.
“I don’t think I’ll make it this year,” McKee said. “I’d like to have the experience.”
McKee competes in cross country skiing and with the track and field team at Maranacook since Kents Hill doesn’t offer either sport. Last spring, she won the Class C state title in the 1,600-meter run. Toomey said he and McKee are working on her speed as well as her pace and eventually believes she’ll excel at the 2-mile in high school because of her mental toughness and eventually the 3,000 and 5,000 meter runs in college.
“She’s so young,” he said. “Definitely she can compete at the highest level in college when that time comes.”