BANGOR, Maine — If you’ve attended any Eastern Maine Indoor Track League meets at the University of Maine this winter, you may have noticed some schoolgirl athletes donning crimson red sweatshirts that read “Improvement Leads to Success” on the back.
That has always been the motto of coach Maynard Walton and the track and field teams at Bangor High.
Now, with the longtime coach set to lead his Rams to contend for one more EMITL championship Saturday, some of his top athletes are hoping their improvements over a long season will lead to success — the league championship.
“We’ve just been looking forward to this meet, we just want it because it’s [coach] Walton’s last year,” said senior shot putter Cote Theriault after a lighthearted Thursday afternoon practice which featured fun relays run up-and-down a ramp in one of the school’s hallways.
Saturday’s meet gets under way at 3:40 p.m. with the first field events, while the 4×880-yard relay jumpstarts the running events at 4:15.
The Bangor girls, who finished second to Brewer last winter after a run of four consecutive EMITL titles, have the depth and top seeds to win a fifth title in six seasons and sixth in eight.
That includes senior Dee Wilbur, the conference’s top hurdler at 8.88 seconds and a threat in the 400 at 1 minute, 1.74 seconds, an event she didn’t even run until the fifth regular-season meet.
“The deal was that if I got a sub-64 I didn’t have to long jump anymore, so I was really excited because I do not like long jump,” said Wilbur.
Turns out she more than eclipsed that goal.
“That was probably one of my favorite moments of track. Even though I didn’t win [the race], it was just an awesome feeling,” Wilbur said.
Wilbur and Brittney Chapman, a junior, give the Rams a sound 1-2 punch in the 400, which on paper appears to be the race of the day with the aforementioned Bangor combination and Mount Desert Island record-breaker Danielle Hutchins and Brewer speedster Kira Giroux, both of whom broke the 1-minute barrier last week.
Hutchins owns league records in the 55 dash (7.22), 400 (58.55) and 200 (26.45).
“I just haven’t really run against [Hutchins and Giroux] because I haven’t been running the 400 lately, so PVCs should be good,” said Chapman.
The Rams also have received sound production out of some promising underclassmen in Leila Musavi in the jumps and Laken Thomas and Jade Baumrind in the sprints.
Theriault heads up a tough shot put trio, as the Rams boast the Nos. 2, 5 and 6 seeds in that event in Theriault, Erica Francais and Erin Nichols.
“We’re looking to improve our marks, Erica Francais has PR’d every week for like a month now, so we’re just trying to get Erin and me up there scoring some points,” Theriault said.
Even though on paper it appears this meet may come down to Brewer and Bangor, MDI, with its top seeds in Hutchins and Heather Spurling, should contend, also.
“I was looking through all the seeds and MDI’s going to be tough. [Sprinter] Destiny Kanu’s been stepping it up. It’s going to be an all-around good meet to watch,” Chapman said.
There’s no doubt Bangor wants to send its coach out on a championship note.
“It makes me want to cry, next year coming back [and] him not being here. For Walton, I want this for him,” Chapman said.
Other key Bangor athletes include Megan Hogan in the high jump and Jen Tsang and Katie Porter in the pole vault.
Brewer boasts one of the state’s top distance teams, and has solid depth in all three distance races plus the top seed in the 4×880 relay.
In addition to Giroux in the 400, 55 dash and 200, the Witches will also seek big points out of Mackenzie DeGraff in the 55 dash and long and triple jumps, Alison Keane in the pole vault and shot put, Kaitlin Noyes in the pole vault and 800 and Bekah Clark and Kayla Triplett in the high jump.
In addition to Hutchins, MDI is led by senior distance ace Spurling, the top seed in all three distance events, and Kanu.