December 5, 2012

CROSS COUNTRY: Kents Hill freshman heads to national championships

By Gary Hawkins ghawkins@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

If you compete in road races here in central Maine, there's a good chance you've heard of Anne McKee.

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MAKING HER MARK: Kents Hill freshman Anne McKee of Hallowell is a familair fixture and winner at local road races. She led the Huskies to their first cross country conference title in 26 years this fall and Saturday will compete in the Junior Olympic Cross Country championships in Albuquerque, N.M.

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McKee was the top female finisher at the Rail Trail 5k, the Old Hallowell Day 5k and the Belgrade Lakes 5k, all at 13 years of age. Now 14, she was the top female finisher at the annual Gasping Gobbler 5k this past Thanksgiving Day in Augusta.

Saturday, McKee will test herself on a national stage at the USA Track and Field Junior Olympic Cross Country championships in Albuquerque, N.M. The Hallowell native and Kents Hill School freshman recently qualified at the USATF Region I race in Long Island, N.Y., by finishing 10th in her 13-14 age group.

Despite her age, McKee has compiled an impressive running resume that includes finishing first in each of her Maine Association of Independent Schools Athletic Directors (MAISAD) events at Kents Hill. She capped her season by winning the individual league championship and leading the Huskies to their first MAISAD title in 26 years. She was also the top freshman finisher in the state at the Festival of Champions in Belfast earlier this fall. It was on that course that McKee posted her personal best 5k time of 19 minutes, 38 seconds. Overall, it was the 14th best time for high school girls of any age in the state.

"I love the 5k distance," McKee said. "I love how it brings all types of people out."

McKee ran for Brian Beard at Kents Hill this fall but over the summer she trained under the tutelage of her father, Walt, a former cross country runner at Maranacook and current distance coach for the Hall-Dale High School track team.

"He gave me all kinds of workouts," McKee said. "I think I owe it all to him."

In addition to competing in road races, McKee built up her mileage to between 40 and 50 a week during the summer and it paid off this fall.

"In the summers, especially, and also on weekends I've been able to pitch in," Walt said. "We try to concentrate on building base miles and we also do speed work on the track."

Her father may have given her the road map, but Anne has followed at a pace far ahead of most runners her age.

"That's purely a measure of her dedication and discipline," Walt said. "She runs in rain, snow or sleet, morning, noon or night. If it has to be done, she gets it done."

Since Kents Hill has no cross country ski team, Anne will compete as an independent for the Maranacook Nordic team this fall under veteran coach Steve DeAngelis, whose first year at the Readfield school was Walt's last in 1984-85. She'll also run track for Maranacook during the spring.

Besides her running and academics -- she's a straight A student -- McKee plays the violin, something she began three years prior to running at age 5. She's the concertmistress for the Capital Strings in Augusta and will miss a Saturday performance with the chamber orchestra at Messalonskee High School.

"I'm making the Sunday one," she said, of a performance at South Parish Church in Augusta.

McKee drew much of her inspiration to compete from former Maranacook school standout Abby Mace.

"I met her a few times," she said. "I've always followed her success."

Just 5-foot-2 and barely 100 pounds, McKee said her physical stature is no detriment to her own success.

"It doesn't bother me too much," she said. "I look at Abbey Leonardi. An inch shorter than McKee, the former Kennebunk High School runner set a number of Maine running records and this year was a member of the NCAA Division I cross country championship team at the University of Oregon.

Gary Hawkins -- 621-5638

ghawkins@centralmaine.com

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