FORT KENT — Grace Boutot’s summer training program is vastly different than most other high school cross country runners in the state.
The Fort Kent High School senior is not only one of the top runners in Class C coming into this season, but a top biathlete on the U.S. Junior National team.
“Normally, I do a lot of ski training in the summer and running, so that really helps me for the fall,” Boutot said after practice Monday afternoon.
Boutot and the Warriors should be one of the top teams in the Eastern Maine Class C ranks this fall, as they welcome back their top four runners from a team that finished second in the regional championship meet in 2007.
First-year coach Ron Pelletier has a full squad of five runners, a blessing considering the Warriors struggled to field a full team last fall.
“This year, we actually have five girls that are practicing, so hopefully we’ll be able to go on to states and do really well this year,” said junior Alyssa Ouellette. “We have a strong five right now.”
Boutot added that a couple of Fort Kent’s runners couldn’t attend the state meet a year ago, so the Warriors were unable to post a team score after their strong runner-up showing in the regionals.
“Last year was kind of stressful. We were doing really well, but to not have a full team [at states] was a setback,” explained Ouellette, the Warriors’ No. 4 runner last season.
Sometimes, having some of the state’s top individuals but not having enough athletes to compile a team score can leave a sour taste in the mouths of the top-flight runners.
“Last year a lot of the girls came in first, second and third in a lot of the meets but just couldn’t score,” Pelletier said. “We have five girls and five guys that are going to be out there and be able to score as a team so we’re really excited about that.”
With a chance to perhaps do considerable damage team-wise in Class C, the Warriors are raring to go.
“I think we’re going to be OK,” Pelletier said.
However, with this being his first season at the helm, Pelletier’s taking things slowly.
“Everybody’s trying to figure out their pace. It’s early in the season,” said Pelletier, whose team did its first speed workout of the preseason on a chilly, breezy day in the St. John Valley.
“Things went pretty well,” he said of the workouts, which he calls “hold peak,” in which runners do a long-distance run, then run about 15 to 20 seconds quicker than 5K race pace in the workout’s last mile.
Pelletier, also the girls JV basketball coach at Fort Kent and an assistant cross country coach at the University of Maine at Fort Kent, will be helped out by Kate Fecinta, who coached Fort Kent’s track and field teams this past spring.
Individually, Boutot will be one of the runners to beat in the Eastern Maine C ranks and possibly statewide.
“I’m expecting to do better than last year because I’ve been working harder and training all summer, so I’m looking forward to having some really great finishes,” Boutot said.
The ski training should prove beneficial.
“We definitely work the whole body, so it definitely makes my legs a lot stronger,” Boutot said. “It’s really hilly around Fort Kent, so we have a great opportunity to train on that.”
Boutot finished fourth in the Class C state meet last fall, and she’s confident she can place even higher this year.
“I’ve trained all summer and I’m confident in my abilities,” she said.
Fort Kent opens at home Wednesday at 4 p.m. against Limestone and Greater Houlton Christian Academy.