She’s the best in the conference, the best in the class and the best in the state.

The next goal for Sarah Cox is the region, and the Waterville junior made clear strides in that direction this season. Cox dominated the spring from start to finish, defending her Class B state titles in the shot put and discus and nabbing distinction as the Morning Sentinel Girls Track and Field Athlete of the Year. Skowhegan’s Leah Savage, Winslow’s Maeghan Bernard and MCI’s Christa Carr were also considered.

Cox’s accomplishments went beyond Class B titles. Her winning shot put throw of 41 feet, 5.75 inches and discus throw of 118-9 at states were the farthest of anyone in the entire state, regardless of class, and she parlayed those two titles into a pair of top-10 finishes (eighth in discus, 10th in shot put) at the New England Championships at the University of New Hampshire.

“I’ve definitely had a few breakthroughs this season,” Cox said. “I can only attribute that to time and effort in practices, and it’s just been a great season.”

Her coach, Ted Brown, said he knew that Cox went into the season with ambitions that went beyond conference and even state honors.

“I talked to her early in the season about (how) we wanted to almost train through states, so that she could peak in New Englands,” he said. “She had her eye on New Englands from day one. … This year, she was more focused on going further.”

Brown said Cox showed the work ethic to match the lofty ambitions.

“She works year-round. She doesn’t just come into track and try to do the best she can starting with the first day of practice,” he said. “She comes into preseason prepared, so she starts at a higher level than a typical athlete who doesn’t prepare year-round.”

“I took a lot of time going to the gym, working out, working on my technique,” Cox said. “Technique is everything, especially in throwing. If you have no technique but you have all the strength, you’re still not going to go anywhere. Technique was my biggest focus this year.”

Cox went into the season as the clear Class B favorite in both events, but the spring wasn’t without its rougher patches. She wasn’t performing in meets as well as she was in practices, and as the weeks to states ticked away, she could feel frustration occasionally setting in.

“I was really trying to be at my peak at the state meet,” she said. “I had hit a lot of good throws in my practices, but I hadn’t been able to repeat them in my meets. So I knew I could throw them, but it was a matter of allowing myself to throw it where it counted.

“My biggest breakthrough was probably a week before states. That’s when I put things together, and I popped it at states.”

Not without some drama. She made the shot put final without a throw over 40 feet, and still hadn’t cleared 40 feet in the final after attempting two of her three throws. Meanwhile, Carr had notched a throw of 40 feet, 10.75 inches, and was ready to claim the title if Cox couldn’t reach that distance with her final throw.

Cox saved the best toss of her career for the big moment, launching the 41-5.75 throw that made her a champion again. The fight for the discus title wasn’t as close; Cox’s throw was nearly nine feet further than runner-up Sam DeSouza of Lake Region’s.

“She threw an absolute bomb,” Brown said. “You can’t get much more drama than that in throwing. It was terrific. I’ve never enjoyed a throwing event so much. It was nerve-wracking for five throws.”

Next up were New Englands, where Cox beat her discus throw from states with one of 121 feet, 9 inches. Despite setting another personal record, she settled for finishes outside the top-six cutoff for All-New England honors.

“I didn’t meet my All-New England goal, but I performed pretty well considering I had just peaked at my state meet the week before,” she said. “It’s very hard to peak twice.”

It just gives Cox a goal for her last high school season. It’ll require plenty of work, but she’ll be up for it once again.

“If you want to be successful at something, you have to work at it throughout the year,” she said. “And it took a lot of time commitment, but it’s something that I really love doing, so it’s not difficult for me to do.

“I’m very excited for next year. This year is just another stepping stone of what I can do.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

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Twitter: @dbonifantMTM