Lydia Gilmore: UMaine 2024 Co-Valedictorian

Lydia Gilmore of Bangor, Maine, is a 2024 valedictorian. She is majoring in mechanical engineering and is a member of the Cross Country and Track & Field teams. On the accelerated track for a master’s in mechanical engineering, she is also an undergraduate research assistant at the Advanced Structures and Composites Center (ASCC).

Through small community races as a child, Gilmore discovered her talent for running and the joy she found in pushing her physical and mental limits. She went on to set university records for top ten performances in several long-distance track events and to finish in the top 20 of the America East Conference Cross Country Championship. She won the Team Maine award for highest individual GPA; was nominated for the M Club Dean Smith award, presented annually to the top male and female student-athletes; and was named several times to the America East All-Academic team.

Coupled with her commitments as a scholar-athlete, Gilmore earned the respect of university faculty with her persistence and grit to overcome challenges and her service to the community at large. Since 2017, she has volunteered for the Maine National Guard Youth Camp, a summer program for children of retired or active members of the military. As a child with two parents who served, Gilmore understands the complexities of families with military backgrounds and teaches youths how to face challenges with resilience and confidence. While growing up, her parents taught her to break down goals or obstacles into manageable pieces — a life lesson she used to approach setbacks caused by Lyme disease in the middle of her collegiate running career. Rebuilding her fitness to a competitive level taught her to practice patience in accepting small, daily victories with gratitude and optimism. She learned that personal success is achieved through a disciplined work ethic, honesty in perspective and tailoring one’s goals to meet reality. 

Gilmore has started taking graduate courses and will conduct research in the area of textiles for her master’s thesis. As a research assistant at the ASCC, she has worked on several different projects and introduced innovative ideas to help advance research in computational modeling and optimization of large-scale additive manufacturing. She will continue her master’s degree in mechanical engineering at UMaine following graduation. 

When did you first realize your love for cross country and track? And what encouraged you to stick with it through college?
I have always loved running, even when it hasn’t loved me back. I found early on through small community races that I enjoyed pushing myself, and I had the gritty stubbornness to back it up.  Running is a great way to connect with nature and practice mindfulness. With a lot of support from my coach at Bangor High School, I stuck with the sport because I love that it forces you to confront the ways you hold yourself back. All of those miles can be meditative if you embrace and push past the discomfort. Although being a student athlete is a huge commitment, running has been a helpful outlet and a good way to round out my day. 

How did you find and keep the motivation to effectively devote your time to several activities? 
Participating in multiple activities actually helped me to stay engaged in my college career.  Nobody can feel motivated all of the time, but balancing multiple undertakings allowed me to shift and adjust my priorities as needed. One practice that I found particularly helpful was compartmentalization. For me, this meant focusing completely on academics during the day and then becoming solely an athlete when it was time to run. This way, I could stay present for the task at hand and give myself a rest from either activity. Motivation will always come and go, but discipline and routine are what step in when motivation is lacking.

How do you use your position as a campus role model, both athletically and in the classroom, to influence others? 
I’m a very social person, and I love talking to new people. Those small, daily interactions can be far more impactful than people think. The way that you make people feel is what really makes an impression, and I think that’s where a good legacy or a sense of influence should come from. 

Do you think your ability to positively look at your circumstances, such as with setbacks from lyme disease, developed from your upbringing?
My experience with setbacks, such as lyme disease, has certainly been a lesson in perspective and gratitude. My parents have always taught me to break down my goals or obstacles into bite sized pieces and focus on progress over perfection — skills that serve me daily in life. Their support has meant everything, and they’re a huge reason why I’m able to keep looking forward in the face of challenges. What kept me positive was adapting my goals to reality. Despite having tough running seasons and taking time off midway through my collegiate running career, I found plenty of small victories as I returned to running and competing. Sometimes my goals are small, but moving forward is the important part.

Contact: Ashley Yates,