YARMOUTH—Last cross country season, Yarmouth’s Luke Laverdiere struck fear into the hearts of upperclassmen runners in the Western Maine Conference, beating them one meet at a time. However, by the time the postseason approached, the returning sophomore admitted to feeling slightly burnt down from the toll he took in the middle of the season.
“Last year I peaked really early in the season,” said Laverdiere, who ran a personal best time of 16 minutes, 33.77 seconds last fall.
Now, with a year of experience running with high schoolers, Laverdiere is ready for his sophomore season and has high expectations for the fall.
“I might lay a little lower this season to be fresh for the postseason,” he said. “I want to win states. I feel like it’s in my wheelhouse this year.”
As a freshman, despite feeling worn down, Laverdiere finished seventh at the Class B state meet at Troy Howard Middle School in Belfast, running 16:53.15 and qualifying for the New England Championships. He was the top freshmen in the state.
He continued to run fast times on the track during the winter and spring, specializing in the mile and two-mile. During the indoor season, he broke 10 minutes in the two-mile (9:47.79), ranking third in the state regardless of class. He continued to perform well during the spring as he placed second in both the mile and two-mile at the Class C state championship.
After a summer of training in which he reached 55 miles a week, Laverdiere showed he was primed for a great season at the Beach to Beacon in Cape Elizabeth. Laverdiere completed the 10-kilometer course in 34:22, which was good enough for second to Chris Walfield of Morse, an opponent Laverdiere will likely race against at the state meet in October.
“(Beach to Beacon) gave me a lot of confidence,” Laverdiere said. “I think it shows I’m ready.”
Longtime Yarmouth coach Bob Morse believes Laverdiere is ready to take another step in his racing given his recent summer of training and his willingness to compete.
“(Luke) learned a lot last year,” said Morse. “I think he’s learned himself how to prepare better.”
Laverdiere has already showed signs of a breakthrough this season as he started his sophomore campaign winning the Laliberte Invitational Aug. 28, covering the 2.4-mile course in 13 minutes, 19.60 seconds, this time beating Walfield.
“It’s always nice to open up the season like that, for him,” said Morse. “It was a huge confidence boost for him. The course wasn’t three miles, but he was in control after two miles.”
Despite the early success Laverdiere has seen, he’s had to deal with a Vocal Chord Syndrome that affected him in training, as well as a few races last fall. At the Festival of Champions last October, Laverdiere was on his way to running away from the field in the freshmen race after completing the first mile in 4:59, but then disaster struck when his vocal chord acted up and forced him to slow down considerably, as he finished the race in 19:59.
However, according to Laverdiere, this condition hasn’t been detrimental to his training since then and has rarely had to deal with it. When it does, he practices his breathing which helps the condition.
“(The syndrome) happens a little bit,” he said. “Usually when it’s humid out, but I’ve learned how to deal with it.”
Like any young phenom, wearing out at a young age is a concern, but Laverdiere and his coaching staff are confident he will be as fresh as possible as he progresses in his high school career. Morse also realizes the toll a runner can take from having run all three seasons throughout the school year.
“We are going to make sure Luke has fun, enjoys himself and doesn’t get totally obsessed with winning and hitting the times he wants to hit,” Morse said.
For Laverdiere, his goals are simple.
He wants to win and he also wants to see the kind of success Maine runners such as Ben True, Will Geoghegan and Ethan Shaw have seen, long past high school.
“There have been a lot of great runners who have come from Maine and I’ve hit a lot of their times as freshmen,” Laverdiere said. “So I want to continue that path.”
After turning heads as a freshman, Yarmouth sophomore Luke Laverdiere continues to excel on the trails.