Luke Bartol knows good things are in store for the Maranacook boys cross country team next fall. The Black Bears laid the groundwork this season with a fourth place finish at the State Class C meet.

They return their top six runners next season, including Bartol, who led the team in seventh place at the state meet. The second runner on the team last season, Bartol blossomed this fall in his junior year, He cut nearly a minute off his sophomore time at the Festival of Champions, a prestigious mid-season race that includes the top runners in the state as well as New England.

“He was strong (last fall) but he’s definitely made huge improvements over last year.” Maranacook coach Roselea Kimball said.

For his efforts, Bartol has been selected Kennebec Journal boys cross country runner of the year.

Bartol got into cross country running in high school as a way to prepare for cross country skiing which he began in the sixth grade. Skiing remains his first love but running is gaining a foothold among his varied interests.

“In running you have to pay a lot more attention to pace,” Bartol said. “In skiing you can coast on some of the downhills.”

Bartol placed third in the Class B classical race last winter and ninth in the skate race. His strength there as well as running is a consistent pace.

“I’ve got the endurance,” he said. :I can just keep going. I’m hoping to be an individual state champion.

He also runs the mile and two mile in outdoor track but admits skiing and running cross country are more interesting.

“I love being in the woods,” he said. “Running around an oval is a little boring.”

Bartol put in a lot of miles over the summer in a regimen that included running and roller skiing.

“I amped up my training a lot,” he said.

He also ran a couple of road races, estimating his running alone amounted to 45 miles a week.

As a sophomore, Bartol finished the Festival of Champions race in Belfast in 18 mintues, three seconds. This fall he ran the same course in 17:12. He likewise improved his times at the state, regional and conference meets. A top student he hopes to ski in college. His interests aren’t solely confined to athletics.

“I went to a concert at age 5 and saw my tea her playing the violin,” Bartol said.

He decided he might enjoy that himself and has been playing the instrument for the past 10 years, these days with both the Captital Strings and the Colby Community Orchestra. He later also took up the trumpet.

“He’s determined,” Kimball said. “also multi-talented.”

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