Shelby (Pickering) Bradford is the ultimate athlete.
Soccer and basketball came naturally to the Lee native, as she excelled in both sports at Lee Academy and has had an outstanding career at Husson University in Bangor.
Until last spring, she had never picked up a lacrosse stick, but still led Husson’s fledgling women’s lacrosse team with 45 goals and 15 assists, only adding to an impressive athletic resume.
Bradford’s athletic accomplishments during 2009 have been chosen by Bangor Daily News readers and listeners of Bangor radio station WZON (620 AM) as the 2009 Top Individual Performance of the Year.
“I don’t think you can put it into words, Shelby is just the total package,” said Husson women’s basketball coach Kissy Walker when asked to describe how much Bradford has meant to Husson’s programs over the years.
“She’s just somebody that night in and night out, she’s going to show up with big numbers. She just plays, she never complains, she’s positive and just a great individual.”
More than 4,200 votes were cast in three different categories, including the top sports story of the year and team performance from 2009.
Maine Maritime Academy football team’s run to the NCAA Division III playoffs was not only tabbed as the top team performance, but the state’s story of the year.
The Mariners of Castine boasted the nation’s top rushing attack and the country’s top ground-gainer in senior fullback Jim Bower, who averaged 160 yards per game.
MMA garnered 35 percent of the vote in the team category, while the Bangor High School boys soccer team, which allowed only one goal during the regular season and advanced to the Eastern Maine Class A final, was second with 19 percent, just ahead of Eastern Maine Class B ice hockey champion Presque Isle (18 percent).
The Mariners earned 36 percent of the vote in the story of the year category, while the start of the Maine Red Claws and Husson football coach Gabby Price’s resignation tied for second at 18 percent.
The Red Claws are an NBA Developmental League franchise based in Portland affiliated with the Boston Celtics. Price stepped down from Husson after six seasons and bringing football back to the school. He was replaced by Niles Nelson.
Husson’s triple threat
Fans throughout Eastern Maine have come to expect success on the basketball court and soccer field from Bradford — she holds Husson’s all-time soccer scoring record with 64 goals and 37 assists (165 points), but it was her easy adaptation to lacrosse last spring that turned more heads.
“She picked it up quickly,” said Husson women’s lacrosse coach Mark Hundhammer. “Just having her around, and just that general feel for athletics and how to compete and how to be prepared for a game and everything, absolutely helped everybody.”
Anyone who knows Bradford will also point out how well-rounded she is — the occupational therapy major accumulated a 4.0 grade point average last semester, volunteers with the Special Olympics and is active in her church, Calvary Chapel in Orrington, where she met husband Brock Bradford.
“Her work ethic in the classroom and community service is just remarkable,” Hundhammer said.
Bradford attributes much of her success to Brock, her brothers Drew and Tom Pickering, and parents Paul and Cindy Pickering.
“Mostly it’s my family. Growing up my brothers would put up with watching all my games,” Bradford said.
She has led Husson’s women’s soccer team to three NCAA Division III tournament appearances and is averaging 18 points and 10 rebounds per contest thus far during basketball season.
Bradford draws a lot of attention from opposing defenses, but it doesn’t faze her.
“When two people team on you, there’s always someone else open,” Bradford said. “It opens things up for other people.”
“She’s extremely unselfish,” Walker said. “I think she’s a true team player, I don’t think she’d ever put herself first, and you know I get comments from other coaches, from officials, you name it, because she gets beat on pretty hard each and every game and she never says a word. She just plays.”
That winning attitude has served Bradford well over the years.
“Her greatest attribute is her work ethic and day to day, practice to practice and throughout the game, she just never stops,” Husson women’s soccer coach Keith Bosley said.
Other individual performances that were finalists included University of Maine quarterback Chris Treister’s performance in a game against Rhode Island, MMA’s Bower becoming the leading rusher in NCAA Division III, Bangor senior Lonnie Hackett rushing for more than 2,000 yards and Dirigo High basketball standout Tom Knight accepting a scholarship to Notre Dame.
Treister, a Cape Elizabeth native, earned his stripes in a big way in his first collegiate start for UMaine this fall, completing 40 of 46 passes for 468 yards and five passing touchdowns with one rushing TD in leading the Black Bears to a 41-17 victory over Rhode Island.
MMA’s Bower averaged 160 yards per game in skippering the Mariners’ postseason run, while Bangor star Hackett rushed for 2,227 yards, the first tailback in program history to surpass 2,000 yards in a season.
Dirigo of Dixfield’s Knight powered his team to the Western Maine Class C title before falling to Calais in the state final. The Mr. Basketball recipient is now at Notre Dame.
Sailing to success
Maine Maritime Academy proved that pounding the rock paves way to success on the gridiron. The nation’s top rushing attack, powered by Division III rushing leader Bower, earned the program’s first trip to the NCAA tourney by annexing the New England Football Conference crown, earning MMA top story and top team performance honors.
Coach Chris McKenney’s Mariners fell to Montclair State in the first round of the NCAAs, but finished the season with a 9-2 record and averaged more than 400 rushing yards per contest.
Other finalists considered for the top story of the year included the Bangor football team handing Lawrence of Fairfield its first regular-season defeat in 35 games en route to the Eastern Maine Class A title, and the Waterville girls basketball team winning its third consecutive Class B state championship while compiling 66 consecutive wins.
Coach Ted Rioux’s club blistered through the regional tournament last winter before holding off a tough York squad to claim its third straight championship.
The win streak reached 67 before Leavitt of Turner Center snapped it in the Panthers’ second game of this season.
Waterville was also a finalist for the state’s top team, along with the Woodland girls’ and boys’ basketball teams, who captured Class D state crowns last winter, along with the Presque Isle hockey team, which won the school’s first regional Class B title as a No. 4 seed, the lowest ever to emerge from Eastern Maine.