BAR HARBOR — From the gym to the pool, Hancock County boys’ athletes wasted little time establishing themselves among the state’s premier competitors this past winter.
Indeed, across every sport, the 2021-22 winter season was highlighted by championship-level performances from local male athletes. The Ellsworth American and Mount Desert Islander postseason awards highlight the top performers from an outstanding winter all across the area.
Boys’ Basketball Player of the Year: Hunter Curtis, senior, Ellsworth
Hancock County produced no shortage of exceptional basketball players this year. At the top of that list was Hunter Curtis, who had the kind of senior season every young boy or girl dreams of having.
Curtis, who captained Ellsworth to a 22-1 record and Northern Maine championship, was the Big East Conference Boys’ Player of the Year this season. He averaged 18.4 points and 4.8 assists per game for the Eagles, and his 10.4 rebounds per game were best in the conference.
On Feb. 16, Curtis became the 11th Ellsworth basketball player to reach 1,000 career points, joining his brother, Jackson, on that list. The All-Big East first-teamer and Maine McDonald’s Senior All-Star selection was also named one of three finalists for the Mr. Maine Basketball Award, given annually to the state’s top senior player.
Boys’ Swimmer of the Year: Nick Partridge, senior, Ellsworth
The Ellsworth boys’ swim team was small in numbers this year but did remarkably well for itself given those constraints. Leading the way for the Eagles was senior Nick Partridge, who made first-place finishes routine all season long.
After winning all 12 of his individual regular season races, Partridge won the 200-yard individual medley and 100-yard breaststroke and was part of the winning 200-yard medley relay team in the Feb. 14 Penobscot Valley Conference championships. He then won the state title in the 100 breaststroke in the Feb. 21 Class B championships with a school-record time of 57.70 seconds.
Partridge, who plans to swim in college, was chosen as the PVC Boys’ Swimmer of the Year for his success. He was named an All-PVC selection in the 100 breaststroke, 200 IM, 200 medley relay and 400-yard freestyle relay.
“[Nick] is an exceptional swimmer in all strokes,” Ellsworth head coach Jim Goodman said. “He is a great teammate and displays exceptional sportsmanship. … As team co-captain, he provided sound input for team member placement in meets and encouraged his teammates to excel in the sport.”
Boys’ Indoor Track Athlete of the Year: Miles Burr, sophomore, Mount Desert Island
The University of Maine’s New Balance Field House belonged to Miles Burr throughout the 2021-22 indoor track season. Burr won at least one event in all seven regular meets and both the Eastern Maine Indoor Track League and state championships. Over the course of the season, he posted wins in the 55-meter dash, 200-meter dash, 400-meter run, triple jump and 4-by-200 relay.
Burr’s strongest performances this season came in that 200-meter dash, an event he won eight times this season and in which he was both EMITL and Class B champion. The Mount Desert Island sophomore was also the state champion in the 55-meter run, an event in which he excelled toward the end of the season.
“Miles is a really great person, so his success on the track and in the jumps starts there,” MDI head coach Aaron Long said. “He’s just a sophomore and still learning, so his potential is extremely high. I know that Miles isn’t satisfied with just potential and will work hard for the remainder of his high school career to make that into a reality.”
Boys’ Wrestler of the Year: Jaxon Gross, junior, Bucksport
Bucksport’s Gross family has been a household name in Maine high school wrestling for more than three decades now. This winter, the family added yet another chapter to its storied legacy in the sport.
Jaxon Gross became state champion at 220 pounds when he defeated Maine Central Institute’s Bryce Bussell via a 6-1 decision in the Feb. 19 Class B championship meet. In doing so, he joined his brother, David (285-pound champion in 2017 and 2019), father, Dave (heavyweight champion in 1996), and first cousin once removed, Shawn (125-pound champion in 1989 and 1990, 130-pound champ in 1991), as state title winners.
Between recovering from COVID-19 and dealing with injuries, Jaxon Gross faced a number of major obstacles throughout the season. Unbeknownst to the junior from Orland, his state championship win last month came as his body was dealing with even more trauma.
“It wasn’t until after he won a state championship that he had an MRI and was told he’d been wrestling with a fractured tibial plateau in his knee,” said Dave Gross, who is also Bucksport’s head coach. “For him to wrestle through that injury and still win a state championship is just amazing and shows his toughness and determination.”
Boys’ Coach of the Year: Peter Austin, Ellsworth basketball
Under Peter Austin, the Ellsworth boys’ basketball team has become a force in Class B over the past decade or so. The Eagles were at their apex in 2021-22 as they won a Northern Maine title and finished 22-1, their best mark since the program’s last state championship win all the way back in 1966.
Austin claimed his 200th win as head coach Feb. 23 as Ellsworth defeated Old Town 55-47 in the Class B North quarterfinals. Earlier that day, he had been announced as the Big East Boys’ Coach of the Year. Austin previously won that honor in 2016, a year that also culminated in a regional championship.
“We have a lot of kids who have put in a lot of work to get themselves to this level, and that’s made it a fun year,” Austin said following his team’s Feb. 1 home win over Hermon. “They get after each other at practice and push each other hard. The energy and the enthusiasm has been great.”