Kahryn Cullenberg wanted to improve her times. She wanted to get through a cross country season healthy. Most of all, she wanted to get on The Board.

The Board is on the wall in a hallway at Mt. Blue High School. It showcases the best times turned in by Mt. Blue athletes over the last 25 years. To get on The Board, a runner must post one of the top seven times ever raced by a Mt. Blue runner.

“In setting goals, having something to work for, that helped a lot,” Kahryn said.

Coach Kelley Cullenberg, Kahryn’s mother, keeps meticulous records for her cross country teams. After every race, on every course, Cullenberg had something new to add to Kahryn’s file.

“Every single race she ran was faster than what she did last year,” Coach Cullenberg said. “I kept writing, fastest Mt. Blue girls time since 2000, or fastest Mt. Blue girls time since 2006. I think that kind of feeds the fire.”

After placing second in both the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference and Northern Maine Class A regional meets, Kahryn’s season culminated with a sixth-place finish at the Class A state meet in Belfast. Her time of 19:08.49 at the state meet put Kahryn on The Board with the third-best time ever run by a Mt. Blue girls cross country runner.

For her efforts, Kahryn Cullenberg is the Morning Sentinel Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year.

A junior, Kahryn has battled injuries throughout her high school cross country career. There was a hip injury as a freshman. There were several rounds of shin splints last year. This past season, she fought through a pain in the top of her foot. Kahryn never had the foot checked by a doctor, but suspects it was a stress fracture. The injuries have prevented Kahryn from logging the miles of most elite high school cross country runners.

“If you look at a lot of the girls who are running comparable times as she has, they’re probably running a lot more distance,” coach Cullenberg said. “One of Kahryn’s biggest strengths is the positivity that she brings to practice each day. At meets, she is very good at implementing the element of strategy into each race and thrives on thinking about how to run smart at the different venues that we compete on.”

Last summer, Kahryn was able to increase her light workouts. For example, instead of logging a three-mile run, she upped it to four. Being able to increase her workload, even slightly, paid off when team workouts began in August. Coach Cullenberg saw it when the Cougars ran time trials in Acadia National Park.

“She ran significantly faster than she had the year before,” coach Cullenberg said.

Kahryn saw her improvement manifest itself in the preseason Scot Laliberte race at Cony High School in Augusta. Her time of 16:40.98 on the 2.4-mile course was a new best for a Mt. Blue girl in the event.

This winter, Kahryn will compete for Mt. Blue’s Nordic ski team. For her senior season, she’d like to run sub-19 minutes.

“I’m very close. That would be a very good accomplishment,” Kahryn said.

That could also mean moving up on The Board.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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