This was the year Sarah Wade learned to love running.

“I never saw myself as a runner,” Wade, a Mt. Blue High School senior, said.

One of the top Nordic skiers in the state, Wade won the Class A freestyle state title last winter. Before this season, she used the cross country season each fall as a way to tune up for the ski season. Running was another piece of her training regimen, along with bicycling and roller skiing.

“At first, she would tell me she hated running,” Mt. Blue cross country coach Kelley Cullenberg said. “You can tell she’s really passionate about it now.”

Wade turned that passion into a strong season. Wade earned top 12 finishes at the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference and Eastern Maine meets, then led the Cougars at the Class A state meet.

For her efforts, Sarah Wade is the Morning Sentinel Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year.

“She really did commit herself this season,” Cullenberg said. “Before the season even started, she approached me about goals. It was about the running. She was excited.”

Wade said as she trained over the summer, she saw running become a more important part of her workout routine. When she ran the Spandits 5K, a benefit race for the Mt. Blue cross country team, she realized she wanted to approach this season as more than a precursor to the Nordic season.

“I said, ‘Hey, maybe I’m not bad at running, after all,’ ” Wade said.

When the season started, Wade juggled training with a heavy course load. Twice a week, Wade attended a calculus class at the University of Maine at Farmington. On those days, Wade would warm up early so she could attend both practice and class, Cullenberg said.

“She made it work. She didn’t miss a single workout, or she would finish after class was over. Not everybody can make that sacrifice,” Cullenberg said. “I don’t know how she found time to do everything she did.”

Wade was a co-captain this season, along with fellow senior Anja Nordstrom. It was a role she embraced.

“I had to think of, not just myself, but the other girls on the team,” Wade said.

Before meets, Wade and Nordstrom held captains’ meetings with the team, where they would pull out Cullenberg’s notes, and go over the course.

“The other girls on the team really appreciated the fact that (Wade) could talk with knowledge. She’s been in a lot of big races, skiing and running,” Cullenberg said.

Wade placed 11th at the conference meet and ninth at the Eastern Maine championships. At the state meet, Wade was the first Cougar to cross the finish line, finishing in 21:40.9.

“My favorite race is always states,” Wade said. “I perform well under pressure. I really like competing, in general.”

Wade has not decided where she’ll attend college yet. Among the schools to which she’s applied are Dartmouth, Middlebury, Bowdoin and the University of Maine.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242[email protected]Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM