TURNER — Julia Labbe was finally passed by her twin brother, Jason, and she couldn’t have been more thrilled.

“I remember just wanting to beat her so bad, and she was always like a couple minutes ahead of me,” Jason said.

“He’s pushed me. He used to be slower than me, but now he’s way faster than me,” Julia said. “We’ve always pushed each other.”

It was Julia and Jason’s older sister, Alisha, who pushed Julia to even start running in the first place.

“My sister and my dad had always run the (Leavitt) Father’s Day 5K, and then one morning she just asked me to do it with her, and I was, ‘No, I don’t want to do that,'” Julia said. “And then when I did it I really liked it, and that’s what started my running (career).”

Julia only finished two spots behind her older sister, then an accomplished runner on the Leavitt Area High School cross country team. That experience motivated Julia to join the team her freshman year. Jason had already started running cross country as a seventh-grader, and when they both entered high school they joined Alisha, then a Leavitt senior on the team.

Advertisement

The Labbe family has one more race together for Leavitt, and it’s an opportunity that the twins — now seniors — weren’t sure they were ever going to get.

Julia, the late-comer, found early success in the sport, qualifying for the Class B state championship as a freshman. She’s made it every year since, including a 19th-place finish at the Southern Regional last Saturday that qualified her for this Saturday’s state championship meet at Belfast.

Jason hasn’t had that same success, trailing his twin sister in results the same way he had done in head-to-head races. He found a problem that was too late to fix for last season, but it wasn’t too late for him to finally qualify for a state championship of his own.

It took an admittedly bad junior year for Jason to find out that he had an iron deficiency, which was discovered after the cross country season. But thanks to an iron supplement and smarter training during the summer, Jason has had his best season yet. And he’s finally faster than his twin sister.

He was also fast enough at the Southern Regionals to make it states, finishing 21st to get in.

“With Jason, last year placing in the 90s at regionals, and then this year 21st, and with KVACs as well, being first-team all-conference this year, just a complete turnaround from last season,” Leavitt coach Dustin Williamson said.

Advertisement

The race at regionals didn’t come without its challenges, though.

“At the first mile, I was 29th, and top 30 qualify,” Jason said. “I was scared, I was worried. But I moved up because the faster start, people were going out harder than they should have.”

“I was really happy to see him do that,” Julia said. “Last year at regionals he finished like last for our team, when he was usually like the first guy. He was really disappointed.”

Williamson said Jason trained “smarter, not harder” during the offseason. And watching his sister consistently find the success that he couldn’t get never bothered him, but only inspired him.

This season it was Jason’s turn to be the one inspiring others.

“I could see it in his heart, I could see it in his face when he’s racing, I could see it every day in practice, his motivation and his hard work, his determination,” Williamson said. “I had a good feeling that he was going to do pretty well.”

Advertisement

Julia continued to do well herself, winning every 5K race during the regular season.

“She’s always been a great runner. And she’s always worked hard every season,” Williamson said. “But something just clicked, I think, this year. Everything just came together at the right moment for Julia.”

Now the twins get one more race together during their high school careers. It’s a moment they’ve been waiting a while for.

“I think it’s really special because we’ve both put in a ton of work for it,” Julia said. “And then now that we get to experience it together, and just be supporting each other during the race, at that big race, it’s just really exciting to be able to experience that.”

Julia’s goal is to finally break the 20-minute barrier, something she has yet to do in her career. She came close two years ago at Belfast, finishing in 20:58. Jason said he wants to run in the low 17s.

This might not be the last time the Labbes race for the same team, however. Jason is looking at continuing his career at University of Maine at Farmington, which is one of Julia’s top choices. There they would be reunited with Alisha.

But this will be the last time Williamson will get to see the Labbes race as their coach.

“I’m going to miss them a lot,” Williamson said. “We’ve had some great runners in the past on this team, and some great running families, but the Labbes, with Alisha and Jason and Julia, it’s been a phenomenal family, great kids, and we’ll miss them a lot.”

[email protected]


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.