A recent trip overseas has opened the eyes of Nokomis High School senior point guard Julie Smith in a big way.

Smith, who helped lead the Warriors to a 50-19 opening-night basketball victory over Waterville in Newport on Friday night, recently took a trip to Uganda with a couple of other people from her church on a mission trip.

“It was a life changing experience, I appreciate things so much more now, it was just great,” Smith said.

Smith and her fellow members of the Emmanuel Bible Baptist Church in Plymouth had to spend 16 hours on planes to get to Uganda, and while it was the longest trip she has ever had to take, she felt it was worth it.

“I think it helped me realize that there’s more to life than just little things right now,” Smith said.

Smith had to miss some preseason time with her teammates for the trip, but she didn’t seem to mind.

“I need to be more responsible with helping people and not just worrying about myself,” she said.

Smith’s main job while in Uganda was to share her life stories with the African teenagers and learn how their lives contrast with hers.

Smith will figure prominently into a Warriors club which advanced to the Class B state championship game last year and is one of the favorites again this winter.

Coach Kori Dionne’s team looked every bit like defending champions on Friday, forcing 28 Waterville turnovers, which is trademark Nokomis defense.

Leonardi 16th at nationals

The high school cross country season officially came to a close Saturday, as Abbey Leonardi participated in the Foot Locker National Championship race in San Diego.

The Kennebunk High junior improved on her 2009 finish by six places, finishing 16th among 32 runners while just missing out on All-American honors.

The top 15 runners earn that recognition.

Leonardi, the Class A state champion, was timed in 17 minutes, 57 seconds over a hilly 5-kilometer course at Balboa Park, and she finished four seconds out of 15th place.

Aisling Cuffe of New York, who will attend Stanford University on a running scholarship, won convincingly in 16:53, more than a half-minute in front of the second-place finisher.

Leonardi went out strong, hanging in the lead pack through the first mile before cramps slowed her down slightly throughout the second half of the race.

Opening weekend highlights

There were a few surprises and outstanding performances from the first weekend of the schoolgirl basketball season.

One of the top efforts came from Van Buren freshman Parise Rossignol, who splashed onto the Maine high school hoop scene in a big way, dropping 33 points on Limestone Community School/Maine School of Science and Mathematics in leading the Crusaders to a 68-47 victory on Friday.

Another freshman expected to have a solid season, Abby Pyne of John Bapst, had a strong debut for the Crusaders with an 18-point effort as they defeated Ellsworth Saturday afternoon.

In Class C action, Foxcroft Academy, which made the regional semifinals last winter, showed that it might be poised for another tournament run despite losing six seniors, as the Ponies shocked contender Washington Academy in East Machias 46-38. Meanwhile, Central of Corinth rolled past Lee Academy 78-38 behind Taryn Pineo’s eight 3-pointers.

Central meets Dexter Thursday night in an early-season matchup of Class C contenders. The Dexter Tigers defeated Penobscot Valley of Howland in their season opener on Saturday.

Ryan McLaughlin

BDN sports reporter Ryan McLaughlin grew up in Brewer and is a lifelong fan of the New England Patriots, Boston Red Sox, Boston Celtics and Boston Bruins. In "The Boston Blitz" he'll be sharing his perspective...