There were times this season when Abby Mace wondered if she would be healthy to compete for the Maranacook Community High School girls track and field team.

A stubborn knee injury slowed Mace for much of the spring, sidelining one of the top distance runners in the state.

“It was really frustrating,” she said. “I really didn’t know if I’d ever be able to race this year. I felt like I had to start all over.”

Mace, a junior, slowly worked her way back into shape, and when her knee finally recovered she finished the season with a few Class C state championships and an impressive showing at the New England championship meet (top 20 finishes in both the 1,600 and the 3,200).

For her accomplishments this spring, Mace is the Kennebec Journal Girls Track and Field Athlete of the Year. Lindsey Folsom of Cony and Madeline Nazar of Maranacook were also considered.

“It was a different year for me,” Mace said. “My goal was pretty much to just be healthy again.”

It took awhile, but she reached that goal before finishing the season by winning the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs at the Class C state meet. Mace also turned in strong performances at the New England championship meet, prompting Maranacook coach Ronn Gifford to say, “she’s back.”

“What a year for her,” Gifford said. “She kept her head up and really persevered. She tried to figure out what was happening, what was wrong, and then she stayed focused.”

Mace injured her right knee sometime during the cross country season. She competed pain-free on the Nordic ski team but the pain returned when she resumed running in the spring. The injury forced Mace to alter her training.

“It was really frustrating for me,” she said. “It seemed like it was getting better, and then I’d run a little more and it would start to hurt again. I’d have to start all over. I had to work my way up so slowly. I started running just three days a week, then four days a week. The days I wasn’t running I was in the pool. It was a slow process. At times I didn’t know if it would get better.”

The pain ultimately subsided late in the regular season, leaving Mace little time to get in peak shape for the championship meets.

At the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B meet, she finished second to Waterville’s Bethanie Brown in the 1,600 and 3,200. Mace ran the 1,600 in 5 minutes, 21.73 seconds and the 3,200 in 11:40.93. Brown won the Class B state title in the 1,600 and was second in the 3,200.

The following week, at the Class C state meet, Mace improved her times by a few seconds to win both the events. She ran the 1,600 in 5:19.76 and the 3,200 in 11:37.89.

“At the KVAC meet Bethanie was running so well and I wanted to be up there running with her,” Mace said, “but I just didn’t have the base. I didn’t have the speed, that was the most frustrating part.”

Mace saved her best performances for the New England championships, when she ran the 3,200 in 11:15.12, the fastest she’d ever run. She finished 19th. She finished 15th in the 1,600 with a time of 5:13.32.

“When I got that (personal record) in the 3,200 at New Englands, that was most gratifying moment for me of the season,” Mace said. “I came from not even knowing when I could run normally again to running the fastest I’d ever run before. That was something I was not expecting at all.”

Bill Stewart — 621-5640

[email protected]

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