ORONO, Maine — Eastern Maine’s track and field community came together in a big way to support a big cause on this Martin Luther King Jr. weekend.
Athletes from all 15 Eastern Maine Indoor Track League teams as well as, coaches, parents, and former athletes joined at the UMaine field house prior to Saturday’s meets, walking a lap in protest of the Maine Principals’ Association’s proposal to eliminate Maine athletes from competing in New England competitions.
The proposal is one of several budget-cutting options the MPA’s Interscholastic Management Committee will vote on Jan. 26.
The track was flooded with supporters, as when those at the front crossed the finish line – led by a throng of Orono High runners wearing “Save New Englands” T-shirts, the back of the pack hadn’t even rounded the first turn.
As the athletes walked, chants of “Save New Englands” and “Hey Hey MPA, Please don’t take New Englands away” rang throughout the building.
Red Riots’ junior Holli Kenison, one of the state’s top hurdlers and long and triple jumpers, was one of the main catalysts in Orono’s team efforts.
“[Thursday night] I decided that I wanted to make T-shirts for this but we couldn’t really get the whole team together, so I just went to Wal-Mart and got a bunch of T-shirts,” said Kenison.
The Riots had a team dinner Friday evening where they not only designed the shirts but made several of the signs which hung throughout the field house.
“[Coach Chris] Libby was really excited about it,” said Kenison.
Mount Desert Island Heather Spurling, one of the state’s top distance runners, got a little creative herself, making a small flag out of a pillowcase and writing “Save New Englands” on it.
Like a lot of athletes throughout the state, Spurling feels strongly about saving the meet.
“The fact that I’m a senior and probably won’t even compete in New Englands again [after this year], I don’t care as long as everyone else gets it,” she explained. “It’s an amazing experience, I’ve run some of my best races at New Englands before.”
Spurling wasn’t too thrilled when she first heard about the proposal.
“I was definitely shocked, I can see why everyone was [upset] because there’s no point to it whatsoever,” she said.
Kenison was astounded yet impressed at how many people chose to walk.
“When I was walking the lap, I looked over and we filled up almost 100 meters of the track with everybody walking next to each other,” she said.
Both athletes feel that the track community as a whole came together and their voices were heard.
“Everybody really got out and had their voice heard and stood up for what they believed in,” Kenison said.