After lengthy deliberation and discussion about the sporting prowess of 10 sensational student-athletes, the Courier Publications/VillageSoup sports staff has selected its 2019-20 high school créme de la créme.

Medomak Valley High School’s Erik Benner has been tabbed schoolboy athlete of the year and Camden Hills Regional High School’s Kristina Kelly schoolgirl athlete of the year.

They were deemed the best of the best during a strange school year that included only two sports seasons, fall and winter, as spring 2020 activities were cancelled due to the pandemic.

In 2019-20, Benner and Kelley were seniors at Medomak Valley and Camden Hills.

Benner was selected from a stellar group of finalists, who included Mount View’s Draedyn Furrow, Mark Ward and Elijah Allen; and Oceanside’s Matt Spear.

The five finalists were whittled from10 semifinalists, who included Searsport’s Colby Snow; Belfast’s Brian White and Cole Martin; and Medomak Valley’s Connor Daigle and Patrick McKenney.

Kelly was selected from an impressive group of finalists, who included Belfast’s Junne Robertson-McIntire; Mount View’s Hannah Coolen; Camden Hills’ Kaylyn Krul; and Medomak Valley’s Sadie Cohen.

The five finalists were whittled from10 semifinalists, who included Medomak Valley’s Serena Blasius, Abby Lash, Kayla Donlin, Olivia Parent and Mackenzie Emerson.

Robertson-McIntire was last year’s girls winner.

For years, the honors were exclusive to student-athletes in Knox and a portion of Lincoln counties, but Waldo County student-athletes became eligible for the distinction in 2009-10.

Students from Oceanside High School of Rockland, Camden Hills Regional High School of Rockport, Mount View High School of Thorndike, Belfast Area High School, Medomak Valley High School of Waldoboro, Vinalhaven School, North Haven Community School, Searsport District High School and Islesboro Central School are considered for athlete-of-year honors.

This year was the first the athletes of the year were judged solely on their performances in the fall and winter sports seasons, as the spring sports season was canceled due to COVID-19.

Courier Publications publishes three weekly newspapers, The Courier-Gazette in Rockland, Camden Herald and The Republican Journal in Belfast. The company also has two websites: and

The athletes of the year also will receive a free year's subscription to one of the company’s print newspapers or online websites.

Separate stories on Benner and Kelly will appear in future editions of the newspapers and online.

Benner was a two-sport athlete for Medomak Valley, where he was an offensive and defensive lineman on the football team in the fall and a standout wrestler in the 195-pound weight class over the winter. On the gridiron, Benner was a Big 11 Conference first-team selection, as he racked up 33 solo tackles, eight assisted tackles and two quarterback sacks. Benner, despite being constantly double-teamed, was a focal point of Medomak Valley’s offensive scheme as running plays often went into Benner’s gaps. He helped lead the Panthers to the Class C North quarterfinals and also was selected to participate in the Maine Senior Lobster Bowl.

On the mats, Benner proved one of the best in the state, regardless of class, as he won his Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference title, finished second in the Class B South championship and second in the state championships, all in the 195-pound weight division. His efforts earned him a spot in the New England qualifier — where he won the 195-pound weight class — and went on to finish with a 2-2 record in the grueling, New England competition. He finished with an overall season record of 56-4, with 38 of those victories coming via pin.

Benner, who rarely was pinned by foes, set the school's single-season win (56), pin (38) and point (351) totals in 2019, and broke Elias Miller's school record of 169 career victories with 177 — to go along with his impressive 113 career pins.

Kelly was a two-sport athlete for Camden Hills as she was a member of the school’s soccer and wrestling teams. On the mats, Kelly overcame a thumb injury and sported a 12-5 record and finished second in the 120-pound weight class in the girls state championships.

On the soccer pitch, Kelly’s talents, frankly, were unmatched.

She scored 49 goals her senior year — 14 of which came in the postseason — as she led Camden Hills to its fourth straight state Class A soccer championship. She was Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference first-team all-conference (as well as conference player of the year), All-State, All-American and capped a flawless season by being named 2019 High School Girls National Player of the Year, believed a first for any Midcoast student-athlete.

Kelly capped her illustrious four-year high school pitch career with 159 goals, 64 assists and 37 hat tricks.

Courier Publications' sports staff can be reached by email at or by phone at 594-4401.