John Bapst has been a dominant figure in Class C girls track and field this decade. The defending state champion Crusaders have won the last eight Penobscot Valley Conference Small School championships.
Even though coach Bruce Pratt is feeling “pretty good” about his team’s chances to win another, he knows there’s a maroon-and-white obstacle in Orono standing in the way.
“[Coach Chris Libby] has done a hell of a job as coach. I watch him at meets and admire the way he’s tuned in to every event,” Pratt said.
The Crusaders and Red Riots will vie for PVC supremacy Saturday, as the conference’s Class C schools will gather at Foxcroft Academy’s Oakes Field for their 11 a.m. championship meet.
Both teams possess several top seeds, including Bapst’s impressive 10 minute, 37.57-second mark in the 4×800 relay, an event in which Pratt could not utilize one of his top runners and still feel somewhat comfortable.
“I could pull Kim [Spencer] or Maggie [Bryan] off and it could go either way,” he said.
Spencer, Bryan and Maggie Carmack lead a dynamite Crusader distance crew which has top seeds in all three races.
In the 1600 and 3200, Bapst owns the top three times.
“I’m feeling pretty good about Saturday,” Pratt said. “We seem to be in pretty good shape. We’re pretty banged up, but everyone is this time of year.”
While many of the Crusaders’ points should come from the distance, jumping and relay events, Orono seems to have a slight edge in some of the technique events, such as the hurdles, triple jump and pole vault.
The Red Riots have some of the state’s top hurdlers in Chelsea Wagner, Holli Kenison and Shelby Wheeler.
Wagner, a senior, is the top seed in both hurdle races, having posted season-best times of 16.80 in the 100 hurdles and 49.60 in the 300.
Kenison, the No. 3 seed in the 100 hurdles and No. 2 in the 300, is also the second seed in the triple jump, right behind Maria Ullo of John Bapst.
The Riots’ best event is arguably the pole vault, where they boast the top four seeds, including Wheeler at 9-6.
Fort Kent has dark-horse potential, as the Warriors field arguably the meet’s top sprinter in Jamie Pelletier, the No. 1 seed in all three sprinting events and the long jump.
The boys meet figures to be a close competition between three or four teams.
It may well be even closer as top contender Bucksport will be missing a number of key athletes who will take part in a senior class trip this weekend.
That opens the door for teams such as Foxcroft Academy and John Bapst — especially the Crusaders — who are led by one of the state’s best athletes in Chris Fogler.
Fogler has had a whirlwind senior year as he was a key contributor to Bapst’s Class C state championship in football, and he’s been blowing away his competition in the hurdles this spring.
Fogler owns seasonal bests of 15.23 in the 110 hurdles and 39.23 in the 300 hurdles. He’s the top seed in the 200 at 23.03 and will run the 4×400 relay.
With so many other athletes spread out in events, Pratt is banking on a low-scoring, state championship-type meet.
“My guess is, I could be really wrong, but my guess is the first team to 75 [points] wins,” he said.
Bapst, the defending PVC champ, will need solid production from its two freshman standouts, Stuart Lenz (jumps, relays) and Gabe Stewart (distance events).
Stewart has had an outstanding freshman campaign, having run 10:20.69 in the 3200, where he’s seeded 21 seconds ahead of his nearest competitor.
He’s also a threat in the 1600, where he’s ranked fourth at 4:50.33.
“He’s clearly the best freshman boys distance runner we’ve had in the 15 years I’ve been around Bapst track,” Pratt said. “I’ve never had a kid come in as a freshman who was already that good. Smart kid.”
Lenz will be in the mix in deep long and triple jump fields. He’s the No. 2 man in the LJ and the No. 3 man in the TJ.
Another team to watch out for is Central of Corinth.