Portland’s Jessica Brown is all smiles after winning the Female Academic Ace Award.
The Greely/Gray-New Gloucester girls’ hockey team is interviewed prior to the Varsity Maine Awards show.
Grant Hartley was genuinely stunned.
A recent graduate of Edward Little High in Auburn, Hartley was named the 2018 Male Athlete of the Year at Tuesday night’s Varsity Maine Awards presented by the University of Southern Maine and the Maine Today Media group.
“I did not think I was going to win especially after listening to all the accolades of the (finalists) I was competing against. Anyone could have won that. I’m very happy and humbled that I won,” said Hartley.
Hartley played football, basketball and baseball. He will be joining the University of Maine and may try to find a spot on the baseball team, too. A quarterback/punter in football and top pitcher/first baseman, he had been a finalist for state player of the year in football and baseball.
“It’s nice to finally win one of these.”
Female Athlete of the Year Kolleen Bouchard of Houlton High appreciated being recognized four hours from home, and that her full athletic resume was considered. Best known for scoring over 2,000 points and leading Houlton to four state basketball championship games, Bouchard will play next season for NCAA Division II women’s basketball power Bentley University. But she also was a 37-goal scorer for a state champion soccer team.
“It’s cool because I’m mostly known for my basketball and this kind of mixes in my soccer accomplishments, too, and I think it’s also cool because it’s more of a southern Maine based award so I’m repping northern Maine,” Bouchard said.
The third-year Varsity Maine Awards packed Hannaford Hall on the University of Southern Maine’s Portland campus with a standing-room-only crowd of 500-plus to recognize the achievements of high school athletes and teams from across the state. It is hosted by the Portland Press Herald, Kennebec Journal, Morning Sentinel, Sun Journal and The Forecaster. The finalists were selected by the newspapers’ sports editors. Winners were selected by a panel of judges, featuring coach/educators Gary Fifield, Rick Clark and Katie Thompson. The 60 finalists in 12 award categories represented 33 high schools.
The goal of the Varsity Maine Awards is to celebrate the “exciting, uplifting and unifying,” quality of high school sports, said Lisa DeSisto, the CEO and Publisher of Maine Today Media.
Each winner was presented with a specially made full-size Winterstick snowboard printed with their name, their award and the Varsity Maine logo. Finalists received a heavy-duty gym bag stuffed with swag.
“This is unbelievable. You can see all the hard work everyone has put into the event to make it enjoyable,” said Kennebunk’s Emily Archibald, who was named the Fab Freshman.
Guest presenters included two-time NCAA long jump champion Kate Hall, Winter Olympians Julia Clukey and Clare Egan (via video from Lake Placid, New York), and USM baseball coach Ed Flaherty.
“I wanted to be a part of it because I think acknowledging young people’s hard work is really important. Especially from Maine,” Clukey said.
New this year was recognition of one team for each season and a separate coach of the year for boys’ and girls’ sports.
The team winners were St. Dominic field hockey (fall), Edward Little boys’ basketball (winter) and Bangor baseball (spring).
The two Coach of the Year winners have combined to win 25 state championships.
Skowhegan field hockey coach Paula Doughty led her team to its third straight Class A title and its 15th in the past 17 years.
Recently retired Marshwood wrestling coach Matt Rix directed the Hawks to their sixth Class A title in the past seven years. It was Rix’s 10th state title. Marshwood wrestling was a finalist for the Winter Team of the Year. When Rix was announced as Coach of the Year, his group erupted in some of the loudest cheers of the night.
“This was a special year,” Rix said. “It made it that much better that they were here. I was pushing for them to win.”
The other 2018 Varsity Maine Award winners were: Male Academic Ace: Cole Smith, Messalonskee; Female Academic Ace: Jess Brown, Portland; Play of the Year (video clip): Biddeford boys’ basketball featuring Zach Reali’s buzzer-beating tip-in for a playoff win; and Beyond the Box Score: Kolton Brochu, Gardiner.