Right off, Ryan Breton will offer, “I was never a natural-born athlete.’’
He played soccer, baseball, and basketball as a kid before the fascination wore off.
In middle school, he earned good grades but was not on any teams.
“A friend encouraged me to try cross-country,’’ said Breton. “It was just an activity for me at first, not a sport. I wasn't a runner. But I fell in love with it, especially when I got to high school.’’
The Atkinson, N.H., teen just graduated from Central Catholic in Lawrence, where he captained the cross-country and indoor and outdoor track teams, and earned a 3.7-plus grade point average.
There was something about Breton that his coaches recognized right away. If he was not going to be a major contributor in piling up points, he had the knack to inspire his teammates to perform at a higher level than they might have.
“His specialty was his leadership,’’ said Central Catholic’s track coach, Mike Leal.
“His teammates loved him. He was easy to talk to.’’
Talking comes easy to Breton. He was president of his class as a junior and senior, and vice president as a sophomore. He spoke to groups of parents who had children entering Central Catholic, and to students at assemblies and pep rallies.
“I think it came naturally to me,’’ said Breton. He ran the mile and 1,000, and was on three Division 2 state track championship teams.
“Ryan inspired his teammates, even the ones more talented than he was,’’ said Central’s cross-country coach, Rob Benedetto. “They respected him for that. I've had conversations with Ryan that were very enriching.”
When Breton was a freshman, on the first day of practice, an assistant coach asked if anyone knew how to score cross-country.
“He was the only one, and he explained it eloquently,’’ said Benedetto. “That's why he made a very good captain.”
“All his coaches have complimented him on always giving 100 percent,” said his mother, Mary.
Cross-country appealed to Breton because “it's different than any other sport,” he said. “Camaraderie develops between the runners and coaches.”
“We always knew he was going to give his best effort,” said Benedetto.
That was Breton's intention. “You need that personal drive to improve. I tried to encourage my teammates. I think they saw that in me.”
So did his 16-year-old brother, Connor, who is autistic. “Ryan is a good role model for him,” said their mother.
In his junior year, Breton joined classmates for a Habitat for Humanity project, helping build a condo for a homeless family. “It opened my eyes to what people go through,” he said.
Breton became fascinated with weather when he was in fifth grade.
“I'd go skiing with my dad, so I'd check the conditions at Loon Mountain and Bretton Woods on the Internet.”
When he heard a Channel 7 meteorologist ask for weather spotters, Breton called, signed up, and got the gig five minutes later.
“At first it was great to see my name on TV. But I had a responsibility,” he said. Residents in the Merrimack Valley and Southern New Hamphire were depending on his temperature and snow-depth reports on his website, Atkinsonweather.com. He has been a spotter for all the Boston news channels.
“He was a little guy when we first heard from him,” said New England Cable News meteorologist Matt Noyes. “His transition has been awesome to watch. He's had a passion for weather ever since I've known him. He's obsessed with it.”
Television stations cannot cover every town, Noyes pointed out.
“The spotters have become sources,” he said. “They fill a niche every day. Especially someone Ryan's age."
Noyes lives about 3 miles from Breton, so he really relies on Ryan's reports. “He's the local weather [there]," said Noyes. “He's great.”
Breton has a weather station at his house. “It has the same data as the weather people [on television],” he said. “Thermometer, barometer, anemometer."
Leal said, “Ryan would e-mail us the weather before a meet. ‘Coach, a storm's coming in.' I check his website regularly.”
This fall, Breton will enter the Earth, Mineral and Science College at Penn State University and study meteorology. “I'm very excited,” he said. “The day I was accepted, I committed. I wanted to go to a big school with sports, and all that. Central Catholic was big on sports."
The football scandal at State College led Breton to consider his options. He talked to Penn State graduates.
“I didn't meet one that said a negative thing [about the school],” he said. “It's the best one for me."
“He wants to be a weatherman,’’ his mother said. “He's had his website for six or seven years. We didn't think he was going to stick with it. He's a typical 18-year-old, but he's definitely focused on what he wants. He's chasing his dream.’’
No matter which way the wind blows.