As usual, Midcoast high school student-athletes more than hold their own among the top Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference spring honorees, including having a bundle of first-team all-conference selections and two coaches of the year.

Athletes from Medomak Valley, Camden Hills, Rockland, Mount View in Thorndike and Belfast are among those honored by the league in baseball, softball, tennis, track and field and lacrosse.

There also are two local coaches of the year from the league as Camden Hills Karen Brace (girls tennis) and Jeff Hart (baseball) were deemed the top KVAC Class B coaches in their respective sports this spring.

The local student-athletes who were named KVAC all-conference and all-academic (seniors with a 90-or-higher grade-point average during their high school careers) were:

Baseball — Class B first-team all-conference: Belfast’s Jack Davis; Camden Hills’ Zach Dufour; Medomak Valley’s Taylor Williamson; and Rockland’s Lucas Morrill. Class B second-team all-conference: Camden Hills’ Adam Landwehr; and Medomak Valley’s Steven Genthner. Class B all-academic: Belfast’s Michael Berry; Camden Hills’ Michael Crockett and Kevin Pierce; Medomak Valley’s John Bartlett, Dustin Blackington and Williamson; Mount View’s Zach Babin and Kiesha Nelson (manager); and Rockland’s Gentry Burch and Dylan Meklin. Coach of the year: Camden Hills’ Hart.

Softball — Class B first-team all-conference: Belfast’s Victoria Overlock; and Medomak Valley’s Kasey Benner and Kayla Santheson. Class B second-team all-conference: Belfast’s Caroline Carr; Camden Hills’ Olivia Hamalainen; and Medomak Valley’s Lindsay Ranquist. Class B all-academic: Belfast’s Whitney Cross; Camden Hills’ Kylie Carlsen and Sayre Savage; Mount View’s Terri Belcher, Alonia Horton, Danielle Ludden and Bailie Nelson; and Rockland’s Kayla McGuire.

Girls tennis — Class B first-team all-conference: Camden Hills’ Carissa English (first singles) and Emma Blakeley (second singles). Class B second-team all-conference: Belfast’s Shashanna Moll (first singles) and Sierra Ventura (third singles). Class B all-academic: Belfast’s Ashton Fancy, Sarah Morse, Renna Smith and Ventura; Camden Hills’ Jamie Burgess, Leah Davis, Julia Kosowsky, Jesse Mathews and Aylin Orhon; Medomak Valley’s Suzanne Rourke and Hannah Vail; and Rockland’s Jenny Herbert and Haley Wotton. Coac of the year: Camden Hills’ Brace.

Boys tennis — Class B second-team all-conference: Camden Hills’ Casey Scott (third singles) and Tom Young and Andrew Beauchesne (second doubles). Class B all-academic: Belfast’s James Knight, Nelson Maldonado and Morgan York; Camden Hills’ Beauchesne, Pierre Haugen, Scott and Will Vlautin; Medomak Valley’s Alden Ahlholm and Doug Blasius; and Rockland’s Ian Ellis, Kyle Fowlie, Vinh Nguyen, Cameron Paddock-McCrea, Alex Peabody and Kotaro Taniguchi.

Track and field — Class B first-team all-conference: Belfast’s Jake Campbell, Noah Fishman, Wilbur Fogg, Ryan James, Dylan Webster, Fanny Fennimore, Hannah Hill, Allison James, Rachel Kahn, Gracie Sheldon and Emily Violette; Camden Hills’ Emily Lopez, Lianne McCluskey, Collin Downs and Ryan Widzgowski; Medomak Valley’s Morgan Baum, Gwen Moiles, Kiana Ocean, Nicole Weaver, Megan Wyllie, Alex MacKenzie and Nate Meade; Mount View’s Colby Blanchard and Hayleigh Kein; and Rockland’s Rebecca Picard. Class B all-academic: Belfast’s Ryan James, Casie James, Kelsey Woodbury and Kyle Smith; Camden Hills’ Pam Karr, McCluskey and Maddy Smeaton; Medomak Valley’s Baum, Lacy Massengale, Ocean, MacKenzie and Patrick O’Donnell; Mount View’s J.J. Barreiros, Ben Fox and Kyle Story; and Rockland’s Alex Young and Will Watson.

Girls lacrosse — Class A and B second-team all-conference: Camden Hills’ Sarah Leidinger. Class A and B all-academic: Camden Hills’ Jessica Uges, Catey Stahl, Leidinger, Adrienne Horne, Hillary Gordon, Monica Doucette and Eleanor Coleman.

Boys lacrosse — Class B first-team all-conference: Camden Hills’ Kyle Koskinen (attack), Max Mercier (attack) and Zach Wincklhofer (midfield). Class B second-team all-conference: Camden Hills’ Taylor Harrison (defense) and Jacob Filderman (goalie). Class B all-academic: Camden Hills’ Evan Bianchi.

Top coaches

With more than 400 career victories and multiple state, regional and league championships under his belt, Hart is well known for his coaching on the basketball court than his diamond leadership. But his work to help the Windjammer baseball team enjoy an eight-game win streak and become one of the top teams in the KVAC this spring did not go unnoticed.

This was his second year leading the varsity diamond squad. “My approach for two years has been to try to get the guys to play good, fundamental baseball … and the wins will take care of themselves,” Hart said. “I have been very, very fortunate to have Skip Pound and Jon Moro volunteer their time as assistant coaches, and to have a quality guy like Tim Simmons coaching the jayvees. Then you add Bill Hughes, our athletic airector to that equation (Blll was a standout for the University of Maine in the early 1980s and played in the College World Series). That adds up to four really good baseball people in our program, and we are going to reap the benefits of that for a long time.”

Hart, who has won numerous hoop coaching awards (he is even in the New England Basketball Hall of Fame), said he was “honored” to be named coach of the year in baseball, “especially considering the caliber of baseball being played in our conference.”

Brace, in her sixth year, has guided the Windjammers to tremendous success at the league, regional and state level. This spring the team advanced to the regional championship, suffering its first loss in that final match.

“When a whole group of girls get together (17 this spring) it might drive some people nuts with all the giggles and antics, and also the occasional emotions we see as they push themselves to perform. But, to me, it’s a whole lot of fun. We work hard but we have a great time as well. I get to know the players through the years and watch them grow in many ways as they move through their high school careers. With several families I’ve had siblings who carry on our tennis team traditions. The bonds they form with freshmen through seniors being on the same team become really important to them — these are kids who might not otherwise know each other very well. Our seniors take on a lot of leadership — both on and off the court — and become incredibly influential role models for our younger players.”

Asked her coaching philosophy, Brace said, “In a nutshell: my philosophy is sharing a firm belief that every kid can be (is) a winner. I make them work to get there, but we know that as a team we’ll do our best in each match, and that this requires positive energy on a daily basis from each player.

“There is more to the philosophy but I can’t say it all comes from me — it’s just the way our team has always operated. We (i.e, the girls) have some ingrained traditions that have evolved in an organic way over the years. One of them is doing well in school. Girls’ tennis is one of the few teams that has never had anyone sit out, as long as I’ve been coaching, for not doing well in a class. I’m proud to say that three of our five seniors made up three of the top 10 academic graduates this spring. I mention academics because it helps define our push to succeed, to prioritize, and to perform under pressure.

“I firmly believe in the capacity of each girl who joins our team. They know I believe in them, so then they believe in themselves. The result is that they improve. I’ve had parents say that kids’ grades get better when they’re involved in a sport and that seems very true in a broad way for being involved with other high-performing peers. Tennis is a game where each of us is always reaching and refining the various elements and strokes, and also studying the mental aspects of the game. Belief is a big part of winning, and I’ve watched confidence grow even as a single match progresses.”

Brace said she was “excited” when you found out she had received the award. “Other coaches from our school have received this: Jan Holmes-Jackson for field hockey and Jeff Hart this spring for baseball — so to be placed in that group with these terrific coaches feels really good.”

She added that being recognized by other coaches is especially meaningful “because through the years we all get to know each other so well as our teams compete. Every season it’s great to see these people again and to watch as our teams develop. I have a lot of respect for the other coaches in the KVAC and I’m sure you understand how when it’s your own peers making the selection, it’s a special honor.

Brace said Hughes makes it easy for Windjammer coaches to run effective programs. “As athletic director he stays in the background taking care of the multitude of details involved, and he is always encouraging students and his staff, providing what we need, and never missing a beat with his efforts. Our program gets a great deal of support from the school administration, the staff, and the parents of players, so it’s a real team effort every season. Coaching at CHRHS and working with these talented students is truly a privilege.”

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