SCARBOROUGH — Not much fazes Abbey Leonardi.

Not winning four straight individual state cross-country titles, something only one other runner in Maine has done. Not winning a New England championship. Not becoming Maine’s first three-time Foot Locker national finalist. Not winning the Maine high school female Athlete of the Year award from the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram on Friday night.

But Kennebunk High School’s star runner admits that one thing is likely to be difficult to adjust to this summer: her identical twin sister, Aley, heading off for pre-season soccer at Stony Brook a month before Abbey heads to the University of Oregon in late August.

“Just being at home without her will be really hard,” Leonardi said.

Likewise, the male Athlete of the Year’s departure for college is likely to cause a shake-up in the family, even though Sam Dexter, a standout shortstop at Messalonskee High School, is headed only as far as the University of Southern Maine and its strong baseball program.

Dexter’s brother, Jake Dexter, will have to adjust to a new partner on double plays, because the rising junior plays second base on the team.


“It’s always been nice to look to the right and see him there,” Jake said after accepting the award for his brother, who was at an all-star game and couldn’t attend Friday’s dinner and awards presentation at The Landing at Pine Point.

In all, 27 athletes in 28 sports were honored by the Press Herald/Telegram. One athlete, Matt McClintock of Madison Area High School, was chosen in two categories – the outstanding runner in cross country and outdoor track.

Leonardi plans to spend this summer doing the same thing she’s done every summer while in high school – selling lemonade at the Clam Shack in neighboring Kennebunkport’s Dock Square. Then, she will head to the West Coast, while Aley stays east and their mother, Lynda Leonardi, tries to keep track of her four children, one of whom just moved to Milan, Italy.

“The toughest thing will be not to be at every meet,” she said while holding her daughter’s latest trophy Friday. “We’ll get to the big ones, though.”

And if her high school career is any indication, Leonardi is likely to figure prominently in those big ones.

She’s already got some experience running on the West Coast. Although she made only one visit to Oregon, she was in San Diego in December for the national cross country championships, where she finished fourth.


Jake Dexter said his brother has some college baseball experience that he can call on at USM. The boys’ father coaches at Colby, so they often worked out with the college team, facing tougher pitching and fielding balls hit by older, bigger players.

That’s how Sam Dexter developed his skills, Jake Dexter surmises, hitting .475 for Messalonskee this year with two home runs, 16 runs batted in and 24 runs scored, in addition to flawless fielding.

Some previous winners attended Friday’s ceremony, which marked the 25th anniversary of the awards, including Amy Vachon, a star basketball player at Cony High School who was named female Athlete of the Year in 1996.

Vachon, the guest speaker, told the class of 2012 that they have a tough act to follow. Some of the past winners, she said, “are really pioneers and leading the way in the world.”

Vachon, who’s now an assistant coach for the University of Maine’s women’s basketball team, suggested that this year’s winners should revel in their awards, but not rest on those laurels.

She said people often talk to her about the Maine basketball team she played on that reached the NCAA tournament, but she wants to give them a new topic of conversation.

“What I want people to talk about is what we’re doing now,” she said, urging this year’s award winners to do the same.

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

[email protected]

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