AUBURN — Swapping his Nordic skis for indoor running sneakers as an Edward Little High School senior wasn't a snap decision for Lucas Bourget.
Far from it. Bourget is a forward thinker who commenced plotting this strategy as a freshman, when he was playing basketball, of all things.
"I said I was going to use my sophomore and junior year for cross-country skiing in the winter to maximize my oxygen uptake, because there's no better sport (for that) than cross-country skiing," Bourget said. "When I was a freshman, I sat down with my coach Dan Campbell, and he said when you're a senior, you can do indoor because you'll be ready and you can go for the record."
EL's two-mile indoor record and 3,200-meter outdoor standard have belonged to Ben Fletcher since the late 1990s. They're in jeopardy now, courtesy of a calculated admirer who has attacked the goals with mathematical precision and no shortage of sports psychology.
Bourget enters today's Class A indoor state meet at the University of Southern Maine in Gorham seeded second in the two-mile and also among the favorites in the mile.
Not bad for a guy who admittedly views the season as a sort of climate-controlled spring training.
"The two-mile record is 9:42. I went 9:50 the third week of the season, so I'm really close. I haven't done a speed workout all season, and that was on purpose, because the focus is outdoor," Bourget said. "When you do a lot of speed work and you do a lot of racing, it kind of brings you down. I want to steadily keep getting better and better and better until outdoor. A lot of people don't really understand that unless they're really into the sport. This is like getting ready for outdoor."
Bourget's projected points would give the Red Eddies an outside shot at the team state title.
Based on seeds and prior performance lists, EL is in a logjam for second with Cheverus, Lewiston, Brunswick and Bangor behind slight favorite Scarborough.
"He's a committed athlete. He works hard, and you can always count on him in the meets, so that's a huge addition for us," EL coach Calvin Hunter said. "He's been seeded top-three in the two-mile and top-five in the mile, and he can probably do that or better. He's a competitor and a workhorse."
Workhorse is putting it mildly.
As a freshman, Bourget identified as an athlete but wasn't entirely sure how and where to harness it. He followed the trail of tradition to EL's powerful basketball program.
"It didn't really speak to me, but I got a lot out of it because I put a lot of time in," Bourget said.
Then Bourget watched "Without Limits," the movie about late University of Oregon champion Steve Prefontaine. And he met Campbell, the school's longtime distance running coach.
Many EL students have discovered running through Campbell. Bourget embraced it.
"Ever since then, in the last two years and eight months, I've probably taken four or five days off," Bourget said. "I was looking at my log since September and I took one day off."
Bourget enjoys the personal accountability of running.
"What you put into it is what you get out of it. But you have to be super patient, too, because you can't expect, even in a year or five years, to jump way up there," he said. "It's steps. Every day is a step forward, and that's really great."
Skiing is still a part of Bourget's life. He has been out a few times this winter, on his own, for the cross-training benefits.
But running remains No. 1 "and always will be," he said.
Whether he breaks Fletcher's indoor record or not, Bourget's long-term goal is to clear the 9:20 hurdle set by the EL great in the outdoor 3,200.
And if Bourget looks right at home when he's hitting his stride on the USM track today, there's a good reason. He plans to attend school there and find a home on the cross country, indoor and outdoor track teams.
"It's Division III, and at first I was all about D1, D1, D1. But the more I looked at it, USM has some of the best facilities," Bourget said. "They have miles of cross country trails. Great indoor facilities, great outdoor track. It's right in Maine, too. I have a tattoo of Maine (on his shoulder blade). I love Maine."