ELLSWORTH, Maine — Aleta Looker has established herself as one of the state’s top high school middle-distance runners throughout the last four years.
The Ellsworth senior clocked the fastest time in Maine schoolgirl track history for the indoor 1,000-meter run at 2 minutes and 53.77 seconds while finishing second at the 2013 New England championships. She ran the state’s second-fastest outdoor time for 800 meters (2:14:30) last spring at the New Balance Outdoor Nationals.
Looker also is the reigning Eastern Maine Class B cross country champion, as well as the defending Class B indoor state champion in the 800.
Now she’ll get the chance to take that resume to one of the nation’s elite collegiate programs for middle-distance runners beginning next fall after making a verbal commitment to accept an athletic scholarship from Division I Georgetown University in Washington.
“Georgetown really focuses on the middle distances and my focus is on the middle distances,” she said. “It’s cool that I’m going to the best school in the country for what I run.”
Looker paid an official visit to Georgetown in early October, shortly after competing in the Festival of Champions cross country meet at Belfast, where she placed fourth.
“She works hard and it’s a top program she’s going to so it’s a great opportunity for her,” said Ellsworth cross country and outdoor track coach Andy Beardsley. “She’s used to being a bigger fish in a smaller pond, but she’s definitely ready and capable of stepping up to the Georgetown program and being successful there.
“I’m just really happy for her.”
Looker also made official visits to Brown and the University of Connecticut and took an unofficial visit to the University of Maine. Other schools that expressed recruiting interest included Nebraska, Clemson and Dartmouth.
“Georgetown was the first school to recruit me before nationals during the  outdoor season,” she said. “The fact they really cared for me that early was important to me.”
She plans to study international relations and comparative literature at Georgetown.
“I thought at first Georgetown was over my head,” Looker said. “I was terrified about it, but when I took the official visit I really liked everything about it and the coaches there shared my values about running.”
The 5-foot-1-inch, 100-pound Looker, whose twin brother Robert also is a standout runner at Ellsworth, was recruited to Georgetown by head coach Mike Smith and assistant Heather Stephens, both of whom have Maine connections.
“Coach Mike is from New Hampshire but he has family in Portland and coach Stephens’ parents are regulars at Pat’s Pizza in Orono and they’d send her clippings about how I was doing from the Bangor Daily News,” said Looker.
Looker is the latest among several runners with Maine roots to run track and field and cross country at Georgetown in recent years, including former Belfast star Levi Miller, Rachel Schneider of Sanford and Brandon Bonsey of Falmouth, now an assistant coach with the Hoyas.
Beardsley and Ellsworth indoor track coach Steve Connor both expect Looker to undergo a gradual acclimation to the collegiate running scene.
“At Georgetown she’ll be in one of the best programs in the country,” said Connor. “It’s going to be a big jump for her and probably will take a year or more for her to make the adjustment.
“She puts a lot of pressure on herself to perform, and she’s going into a situation where the entire team is probably going to be as good as her and in some cases better. But the good thing is she doesn’t have to go down there and produce right away, and the coaches and the facilities there are a huge bonus for her and I think will really help her excel.”
While the 800 has been Looker’s best event during her high school career, both Connor and Beardsley see her versatility as one of her strengths.
“She’s probably one of the most talented girls I’ve coached in terms of her range of ability,” said Beardsley, who has coached at Ellsworth High School since 1988. “She’d probably qualify for the state meet in the 100 if she ran that, and she could do that right up through the distances.”