LiSha Powell runs cross country for Poland Regional High School and will graduate one year early. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

POLAND — LiSha Powell said it was difficult to prepare for the 2020 season but she wanted to make most of the short cross country campaign.

The Poland senior standout had finishes of first and second in two regular-season meets. In the postseason, she finished 18th at the Western Maine Conference state qualifier.

“I was the fastest person last year (on the girls team) and I really wanted to lead the team in some way,” Powell said. “I just wanted to be a good (teammate).”

Powell shaved nearly two minutes off of her time from the beginning of the season. In her first meet, she ran 22:14.0 and finished second when the Knights ran against St. Dominic Academy on Sept 25. Powell came in first in a meet against Lake Region on Oct. 1 with a time of 23:36.0.

Poland’s LiSha Powell placed second in a girls cross country race against St. Dom’s in Minot in Sept. 2020. Submitted photo

“I didn’t do much (running in the summer last year), but I trained really hard during the season,” Powell said. “I wanted to compete really well in the (WMC) qualifiers.”

Poland coach Sean Galipeau-Eldridge said when it’s time to run, Powell gets focused.

“LiSha is definitely unique, she’s one of the hardest-working athletes I have ever coached,” Galipeau-Eldridge said. “Oftentimes when we are doing intervals and works, she’s doing extra work. In competition, she’s very serious but she brings a very light, fun energy to practice to her teammates.”

Powell said she focuses on running up hills because hills are the most difficult for her. Another training Powell and the Knights do is long-distance running and interval training.

Powell has accelerated her education and will be a senior this season. She is also ready to get back to the Class B state championship meet. She finished 39th with a time of 22:29.0 in her freshman year in 2019.

“She has high expectations for herself and she’s very driven,” Galipeau-Eldridge said. “We don’t have to put any pressure on her. She takes coaching really well but she’s really prepared to do whatever it takes to be her very best in sports and her academics as well.”

Other highlights of Powell’s freshman season included setting her personal record with a time of 22:20.0 during a meet against Lake Region. She finished 51st in the Festival of Champions and 28th at the Class B South regional championship.

Galipeau-Eldridge hopes Powell can get back to the state championship in her final season.

“The qualifiers last year was a whole different experience than normal,” Galipeau-Eldridge said. “Normally, we have regionals and top 30 go to states, but (last year) they were taking only three individuals from the (conference qualifiers) to go to states, which didn’t even happen. Even if she had made it to states it probably still felt like she still has unfinished business.”

Powell’s goal this season is to continue to lower her times, specifically under 21 minutes.

Powell ran a 26:48.0 and finished 18th at the Dan Doors Invitational on Saturday. She didn’t have much time to train before the race because she was on a vacation.

Galipeau-Eldridge said prior to the race that times don’t tell the entire story.

“She’s one who will improve throughout the season, like every week, even if the times don’t show she’s improving,” Galipeau-Eldridge said.

Whatever happens in Powell’s senior season, cross country is a sport she is going to enjoy. It’s a sport she has been competing in since a young age with the Poland Panthers, a local club program.

“It’s just a mental sport, it’s a huge mental sport. I love that because I always push myself mentally,” Powell said. “I always like the fact it’s more of an individual sport — we are a team, we compete as a team and it’s amazing — but it’s an individual and team sport. I always loved the long distance and constantly push yourself.”

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