Anne McKee had few opportunities to race against some of the top Maine cross country runners.

A sophomore at Kents Hill, McKee raced primarily against other prep schools scattered throughout New England.

However, the Hallowell native made the most of those opportunities to establish herself as one of the top area runners.

“I mostly race just prep races,” said McKee, 15. “I knew some of the Maine meets would be my chance to shine.”

And shine McKee did. She finished third out of 623 runners at the Festival of Champions and second at the annual Laliberte Invitational.

For her accomplishments this fall, McKee is the Kennebec Journal Girls Cross Country Athlete of the Year. Cony freshman Anne Guadalupi was also considered.

“From beginning to end she had a great year,” Kents Hill coach Michael Toomey said. “She came in from Day 1 ready to go. Her toughness and her instincts, you can’t really coach.

McKee won the New England Prep School Track Association Division IV championship at Marianapolis Prep School in Thompson, Conn. She crushed the field in the 5,000-meter race with a time of 19:11. Runnerup Libby Pohl, of Beaver Country Day School (Chestnut Hill, Mass.) finished more than a minute later.

McKee also finished fourth in the Small School division at the large Manchester Invitational. She finished the 5-kilometer race in 19:31.

“Those were some exciting races,” McKee said.

But McKee made her mark this season at two of the biggest meets in Maine — the Laliberte and Festival of Champions.

She finished the Laliberte —a 2.4-mile race — in 16:24, which was good for second place behind Shannon Conley of South Portland.

“The Laliberte is such a different strategy because you are running the boys, too,” McKee said. “It’s just different. I pushed myself and finished strong.”

On Oct. 5, McKee competed in the Festival of Champions with a couple of goals. She wanted to finish under 19 minutes and fare well against the elite state runners.

She accomplished both.

McKee finished in 18:59.40 to take third place. Kialeigh Marston, of Bonny Eagle, won the race in 18:42.94.

“I was really, really hoping to go sub-19,” she said. “I really wanted it. Coming into the race, I really wanted a good finish because I finally got to race against all these names I had read about. I wanted to hang with the leaders. I wanted a top-three finish, which is what I got. I tried to just hang tough.

“The Festival really boosted my confidence because I never had the chance to race against those girls.”

Added Toomey: “You always want to race again the best,” Toomey said. “The confidence she got coming out of the Festival of Champions, it really set the tone for the rest of the season.”

McKee closed her cross country season on Nov. 30 with the Footlocker Northeast Regionals in the Bronx, N.Y. She finished 53rd out of 107 runners with a time of 19:46.

“It did not go as well as I’d hoped,” McKee acknowledged. “It was a tough field with literally the best girls in New England. I was middle of the pack. My time was a little slow, but the course was hilly. Hopefully I can slowly move my way up. We’ll see.”

Bill Stewart — 621-5640[email protected]Twitter: @billstewartkj