While coaching the distance runners the last five years at Bangor High School, Jamie Cooke helped mold Riley Masters and Casey Quaglia into two of the state’s best runners.
Now, the 1998 John Bapst High School graduate is being rewarded for all that work as she will be Bangor’s head indoor track and field coach next winter.
Cooke, who is currently coaching distance under Rams spring track coach Joe Quinn, steps in for Maynard Walton, who retired after last season.
It was his 50th year in education.
Her hiring was approved recently by the Bangor School Board, Bangor athletic administrator Steve Vanidestine said.
“It was really a great fit and the staff wanted it, it’s kind of like one of those things that just falls into place because it was meant to be,” Vanidestine said.
After Walton decided to retire, Vanidestine immediately began a search among his staff members for a replacement, and Cooke, a social studies teacher at Bangor High, was a popular choice among staff at the school.
“She said to me, are you interested in me, we had an interview and we hired her. It went great,” Vanidestine said.
Cooke wasn’t a runner in high school — she played softball at John Bapst — but grew up around track and field, as her father, Ray, the boys cross country coach at Bangor and a track coach at the William S. Cohen School, has been involved with coaching for decades.
“I’ve been on the track since I was 5 years old … my history has always been on the track,” Cooke said.
Peter Sund, who was Walton’s sprinting and jumping coach, will retain his post while another assistant has yet to be hired.
“Maynard slowly started handing the reins to Peter and I last year at practices,” Cooke said. “He didn’t want us to be bombarded by this whole new wall [of athletes] next year.”
If there’s any advice the venerable Walton passed down to Cooke it was to enjoy the athletes and the meets.
“He kind of just told me to sit back and enjoy the moment and enjoy the kids that I coach,” she said.
Cooke is also the first head female track and field coach at Bangor High.
“I think the female part of track’s going to really, really take off,” said Vanidestine.
Cooke said her coaching philosophies are going to be fairly simple, and she’s going to try to put just as much emphasis on athletes that are learning the sport as much as those who are veterans.
“I think that’s where a lot of my focus went this year, athletes that are just starting, trying to foster that as much as possible,” she said.
The Rams have been perennial contenders in track and field over the last decade — the boys swept the Class A state championship meets in 2007 while the girls earned a runner-up finish indoors in 2004 — something Cooke hopes will continue under her watch.
“I’m really excited, I really can’t wait,” she said.
She added that she and Sund are working to get a youth program started through the USA Track and Field’s 14-under program and the Bangor Recreation Department, mirroring such programs in Brewer, Old Town, Orono and Hampden.
Cooke said the program will start this summer.
Big matchups looming
The finish line is in sight for the high school softball season, with a little more than a week remaining in the regular season.
Playoffs get under way with preliminary rounds on June 9.
There are a couple of intriguing matchups on the docket in Classes A and B this week.
On Wednesday, 10-1 Mattanawcook Academy of Lincoln travels to Old Town for a key Class B matchup with the 9-5 Coyotes.
After a couple of tough losses last week, Old Town bounced back with a 2-0 victory over John Bapst on Saturday, in which junior righthander Hannah Morin pitched her best game of the spring, a one-hitter.
This game should be a duel between Morin and Mattanawcook ace Tayla Trask, who compiled 12 strikeouts in a 7-2 Lynx victory over Old Town earlier this season.
Morin pitched only one-third of an inning in that contest, as she was battling a right knee injury at the time.
In the Class A ranks, Brewer is hot as the defending state champions have won six of their last seven after a 3-3 start heading into this afternoon’s home game with Lawrence of Fairfield.
The Witches, who picked up a chunk of Heal points with a 3-0 win over rival and No. 1 Bangor last Friday, have a chance to climb even higher up the standings this coming Friday as they take on once-beaten and No. 2 Skowhegan on Senior Night.
Brewer’s pitching has started to come together over the last several games, and with Mel Judkins completely healthy after battling the whooping cough earlier this spring. She provides a lethal 1-2 combination with Amanda Ryan that could be dangerous in the playoffs.
Those two combined on a four-hitter against Bangor, while Judkins recorded 21 strikeouts in a May 20 win over Hampden.
Jumping out of her shoes
The more she triple jumps, the more Lisanne Rieker continues to impress athletes and coaches throughout Eastern Maine.
Rieker, a junior at Calvary Chapel Christian in Orrington, continued her assault on PVC jumping pits this spring with an incredible mark of 38 feet, 3½ inches at the Sabers’ final regular season meet at Hampden Academy last Friday.
That mark is five inches off the all-time state best of 38-8.50 set by Jesse Labreck of Messalonskee at the New England Championships last spring.
Labreck’s Class A state record is 38-4.
Rieker, a foreign exchange student from Germany, looks poised to break the Class C state record of 37-5½, set by Stephanie McCusker of Lisbon in 2002, at the state championship meet in Bath on June 6.
The PVC small-school championship meet is Saturday at Oakes Field in Dover-Foxcroft.