The curtain comes down today on the 2006-07 high school sports season. From the opening kickoff of the first football game in September to the last pitch today, it’s been one of the most memorable years for which a fan and sportswriter could ever ask.

These squinty eyes have seen some great teams win (or, today, at least try to win) state titles — Mountain Valley and Lisbon football, Mountain Valley basketball, St. Dom’s and Rangeley baseball, and others that were entertaining and/or admirable in their pursuit of the Gold Ball — Edward Little, Mt. Blue, Winthrop and Dirigo basketball, Poland and Winthrop baseball. A round of applause to all.

I’m usually a team guy, but when it comes to my memory bank, this year will be about the individual, three in particular — Troy Barnies, Andy Shorey and Jared Turcotte.

If you’ve watched or had the privilege of meeting these three young men, you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, it’s your loss, though you’re getting a reprieve. More on that later.

Just think about this: When you talk about the greatest athletes in the history of their schools, Edward Little, Mountain Valley and Lewiston, three of the most athletically-stocked schools in our area, currently and historically, a convincing case could be made for each being the best to ever get a varsity letter. And they all wrote their legends in the same four-year span.

This trio’s athletic accomplishments have been well-chronicled in these pages. And each of them picked up plenty of hardware for those accomplishments, this year alone — Mr. Maine Basketball for Barnies, two state titles for Shorey, the Fitzpatrick Trophy for Turcotte. But it’s the indelible images they all left — Barnies swooping across the lane to block a shot, Shorey in triple-threat position in the high post, Turcotte bursting through the line and into the secondary — that will stick with me and a lot of other fans of theirs for a long time.

More importantly, each of these young men was a leader in his school and served as a role model for the young athletes that will follow him. Believe me, each had his share of admirers among the K-8 set. All three of them understood it, too, and didn’t shirk their responsibility to reach out to those youngsters. If you follow athletics in Lewiston/Auburn and Rumford/Mexico, you will be seeing their influence for years to come.

All three will have another four years to add to their legacies. And, With Shorey’s decision to walk on for football at the University of Maine (and can someone please explain to me, or better yet, Jim Aylward, why he’s the first Falcon to even get a sniff of the Orono gridiron?), all three will be doing it at Our State U.

They’ve picked up a lot of talent, heart and brains in Orono in the last few months with these three additions. They’ve also added a lot of fans from central and western Maine.

Good for the university. Great for us. Four more years.

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