The biggest thing Cecilia Morin had to do to make her senior cross country season a success was stop thinking too much.

“For Cecilia, it was really just getting out of her own head,” Waterville Senior High School cross country coach Hannah Bard said. “It was her senior year and it was letting loose and having fun, and it took a little while for her to get going.”

This season, Morin fought through an IT band injury and an iron deficiency that sometimes left her feeling tired and sluggish. She emerged as one of the top runners in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference and the undisputed leader of the team.

“I usually try to focus on maintaining positive energy,” Morin said.

For her efforts on the course and as the Purple Panthers’ leader, Cecilia Morin is the Morning Sentinel Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year.

Morin placed fifth in the Northern Maine regional championships at the Troy Howard Middle School course in Belfast. She was also third at the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference meet at Cony High School in Augusta. In three races at the Belfast course this season, Morin shaved seconds off her finish. At the Festival of Champions on Oct. 1, Morin ran 20:21.99. A little over a month later at the Class B state meet, Morin ran the Belfast course in 20:03.85. In between, there was her effort in the Class B North regional, 20:11.39.

“I like that course,” Morin said. “My PR (personal record) is on that course.”

It was the regional championship when Morin finally felt at her best. A few days before the race, Morin chatted with Bard after a workout. Morin had been prepping by doing some cross training.

“She said ‘I feel so good. I feel like Cecilia again,'” Bard said.

Morin’s biggest impact was as the leader of the Panthers.

“At time, I almost felt like Cecilia was an assistant coach. Every exercise she did, she did 100 percent, always to right form, to show her teammates. She recognized what the team needed,” Bard said.

Added Morin: “I definitely feel like I’m an effective leader because all the kids came to me for everything.”

Morin became part captain, part coach, and part den mother to her team. She helped teammates put on their spikes. She made sure everybody used the bathroom before a race. She wrote up motivational quotes for the team.

“It’s part of my own race ritual, to mentally prepare them as well,” Morin said.

Morin’s biggest leadership moment came when the Maine Principals’ Association postponed the regional championships a week due to bad weather. Like many teams, the Panthers had tailored their training to be ready for the original Oct. 22 race date. When that was blown up, Morin gathered her teammates.

“She did a really good job with the team. She came to practice, she settled them down (after postponement),” Bard said.

“I had to get them to realize the season wasn’t over. We had to finish it with as much drive as we started it,” Morin said.

This winter, Morin will compete with Waterville’s Nordic ski club team. In the spring, she’ll run for Waterville’s outdoor track and field team.

“I’m planning on running in college,” Morin said. “I’m not sure where yet.”

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM