In this 2011 file photo, eventual winner Louie Luchini (center) of Ellsworth lead the pack at the start of the 36th Tour Du Lac 10 miler in Buckport. Credit: John Clarke Russ / BDN

Louie Luchini started running when he was in fifth grade. The only reason he did it was his older brother, Joey, was a runner.

“And he was doing it very well so I figured I’d jump in and do it,” said Luchini, who is two years younger than Joey.

He said he began taking running seriously in eighth grade.

“My brother was having a ton of success and I thought it seemed like a possibility for me, too. I wanted to follow in his footsteps,” Luchini said.

He praised exceptional middle school coaches Jim Newett and Nancy Patterson for making running really fun and encouraging him.

“I figured out pretty quickly that the harder you train, the better you get. So I trained harder and harder,” Luchini said.

His drive and work ethic paved the way to a remarkable career at Ellsworth High School and Stanford University and his recent selection by the Maine Running Hall of Fame, which postponed its inductions until next year.

“It is really an honor to be included in the Maine Running Hall of Fame, for sure,” Luchini said. “Maine has an amazing running history for such a small state.”

Luchini ran on two Class B state championship cross country teams at Ellsworth High (1996, 1998) and helped lead Stanford to back-to-back NCAA Division I cross country championships in 2002 and 2003. The 2003 Stanford team triumphed by a whopping 150 points over runner-up Wisconsin.

“That still may be the largest margin of victory ever,” Luchini said. “That was one of my favorite memories. They were mostly guys I came up with through the system and we had so much confidence in each other.”

Luchini, who hadn’t run in several weeks prior to the NCAA championship meet due to an Achilles’ tendon problem, posted a sixth-place finish. Stanford placed four runners in the top six overall.

“It was a pleasure to coach him and see him grow and achieve all that he did,” former Ellsworth High School cross country and indoor and outdoor track coach Andy Beardsley said. “One of the things about Louie is he kept [running] very simple. He loved to compete. He never got caught up in overthinking. He was very determined. He did an outstanding job of just going out and running hard.”

Luchini said he was blessed to run for so many outstanding coaches including Beardsley, Stanford coach Vin Lananna and Frank Gagliano, who coached him after he turned pro and ran for Nike.

“He hated to lose. He was so motivated to give his best,” Beardsley said.

Luchini said a number of other people played major roles in his career including his brother, his parents Louis Luchini Sr. and Cheryl Higgins, and 1984 Olympic Marathon champion Joan Benoit-Samuelson.

“[Benoit-Samuelson] is one of the most accomplished and humble people I know,” Luchini said. “She is an amazing person. She loves the state of Maine and gives back in so many ways. We’re lucky to have her.”

Luchini earned 11 All-America citations at Stanford and competed in the U.S. Olympic trials in 2004 and 2008.

As a senior at Ellsworth High, he finished second in the Foot Locker National Cross Country Championship in Florida after placing 11th the previous year.

“The summer between his sophomore and junior years, he worked very hard and made a big jump. He became one of the best [distance runners] in the country,” Beardsley said.

Beardsley said the friendly rivalry Luchini had with his older brother was beneficial in his development.

It didn’t take Luchini long to decide on attending Stanford after visiting the school.

“I immediately fell in love with the campus and I connected well with the team. It was a great fit academically,” Luchini said.

For his recruiting trip, he left Maine during a February snowstorm.

“When I got to Stanford, there were palm trees and people were wearing shorts and T-shirts,” he joked.

The supportive and resilient Maine running community, which has to run in all kinds of conditions, has had a positive impact on Luchini’s life.

“Maine runners have a mental toughness that sets us apart from others. We push through pain,” he said.

After graduating from Stanford with a degree in human biology, he landed his dream job of being a professional distance runner.

“But when you are running professionally, you lose that team atmosphere and that was always my favorite part,” the 39-year-old Luchini said. “I remember when we won our first state cross country title in high school and I got to share it with my brother, it meant the world to me. To bring a title to our community was huge. The community always supported us.”

Luchini rekindled that team dynamic by returning to Ellsworth and assisting Beardsley with the high school cross country teams for several years. He took over as head coach five years ago when Beardsley and wife Andrea moved to Virginia.

In 2018, he led the Ellsworth girls to their first state title in 40 years.

“That was so cool. That was one of the most fun seasons I’ve ever had,” Luchini said. “We weren’t expected to win it but the girls worked incredibly hard and stepped it up when it mattered. They ran an amazing race. To see how happy they can be makes coaching a blast.”

Luchini also is making an impact in his community as the Democratic state senator from Hancock County (District 7) after serving four terms in the state House of Representatives. He was the House Chairman of the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee for three terms and earned the Legislator of the Year award from the American Legion in 2017. He also served as chairman of the House Ethics Committee.

Luchini said the political world can be toxic but he considers it a “great way to give back to the community.”

Beardsley said Luchini has always been community-minded, volunteering at a number of venues including the local YMCA.

“He is a great kid and a fun guy to be around,” Beardsley said.