Injuries don’t stop Panthers

Posted June 07, 2009, at 10:27 p.m.

BAR HARBOR, Maine — One of their captains, leading point producers, and top throwers hadn’t competed in a month, another top athlete and multiple scoring threat had a bad back, and their top rival jumped out to a quick lead at Saturday’s Class B state championship track and field meet.

Looked like a third straight state title was little more than a pipe dream for the Waterville girls as the two-time defending champs literally limped into the state meet at Mount Desert Island High School.

Looks can be deceiving.

The Purple Panthers looked more like a red-and-white Red Cross unit, but that didn’t keep them from piling on the points — 119 total, 60 of which came from their two most injured athletes — to edge York by 10 and claim a three-peat.

Waterville’s boys were also banged up and made a solid charge, but came up 17½ points short as Falmouth ended the Panthers’ three-year championship streak and won its first state title with 112 points.

“You can’t win every year,” said Waterville boys and girls coach Ian Wilson. “Philosophically when I look back on it, maybe I’ll be happy. I wouldn’t want my boys to be happy coming in second, but we did our best and Falmouth just outworked us.”

As disappointed as he may have been with the boys’ final score, Wilson couldn’t have been happier with his girls’ performance — those of seniors Shelby Tuttle and Danielle Fossa in particular.

Fossa hadn’t thrown anything, except maybe a fit, for the previous four weeks due to a pulled muscle and pinched bursa sac in her shoulder.

“Fossa was seeded high, but we didn’t know what we’d get our of her today,” Wilson said. “She’s been unable to even pick up a brush and brush her hair the last month so what she gave us today was unexpected and absolutely one of the most gutsy performances I’ve ever seen.”

The future University of Maine double major in speech communication sciences and Spanish not only competed in both shot put and discus, she won them. If that wasn’t amazing enough, the righthander threw the javelin lefthanded and still finished third.

“Walking away with a state championship is the biggest thing for me today,” Fossa said. “The thing that’s been the biggest factor for me is keeping a positive attitude all season.”

Tuttle’s hindrance was constant back pain.

“She’s been uncomfortable for awhile, but she chose to compete,” said Wilson.

She did a bit more than that, winning the triple jump and finishing second in the 100-meter hurdles with a time of 14.9 (.15 seconds off the state record time of 14.75 by York’s Chelsey Tewell), as well as the 300 hurdles and long jump — and still she was disappointed.

“It was just really tight in the jumping events and I couldn’t do as well as I thought I could. It didn’t loosen up at all,” said a grim-faced Tuttle. “My back actually felt pretty good in the hurdles. I PR’d in those.”

She also made a crucial contribution in another way.

“[Saturday] was not her best day, but she took 34 individual points and gave up a spot on a relay to help us win a state championship today,” said Wilson. “She’s very tough on herself, so my biggest job is to keep her from putting too much pressure on herself.”

Waterville also got big points from its relay teams as the 4×100 and 4×400 each finished second. Lynn Fleming was Waterville’s only other top-three finisher with a second in triple jump.

Several East athletes enjoyed standout meets. Caribou senior Hannah Saunders led the way by winning a state title in the 1,600 race walk by smashing an eight-year-old state record time by more than seven seconds with a time of 7 minutes, 36.32 seconds.

“That was my goal, so I was really happy with my time today,” said the UMaine-bound Saunders. “I had a lot of recovery time between my events so I was nice and rested and completely focused.

“I wanted to PR in everything as far as goals today. My 4×8 and 2-mile were off, but I was very excited with the state record.”

MDI senior Danielle Hutchins won the 200 with a time of 26.19 and finished second in both the 100 and 400.

“I didn’t get a good start in the 400 and I usually pace myself and then go hard on the final 200, but this time I went hard the entire time and really died on that last 50,” Hutchins said. “In the 200, it was the start again, but good this time.

“I just told myself ‘this is our home and I really need this. I need to step it up.’”

Several Eastern Maine boys distinguished themselves as well. Wilbur Fogg, a junior at Belfast, took the 100 title with a blazing time of 11.35 seconds; Waterville senior Brad Loomis won the pole vault (13-6); and Jadrien Cousens of Hampden took the high jump with a 6-2.

“My PR is 6-6 and I was hoping for 6-8, but something’s going on with my hamstring,” said Cousens, who’s also going to UMaine. “I landed hard on the second phase of my fourth jump in triple jump (fourth) and it just gave out.”

J.D. Gurski of Waterville also contended with injury. After winning the 110 hurdles by a nose on his finish-line lean, he was sixth in long jump. Then came the 4×100 relay.

“I pulled my right hamstring in the relay, and it wasn’t my plant foot, but I couldn’t push off normally in the javelin,” Gurski recalled. “I had this compression thing on and it felt uncomfortable, I didn’t like it, and took it off after trying it twice in preliminaries. It really didn’t work either way. I tried pushing, but there was just nothing really there.”

Gurski finished third in javelin with a 159-1 (20-3 less than his PR this season).

“I know third sounds good, but after breaking the state record in the first throw of the first meet this year, it’s disappointing to finish this way,” Gurski said.

The other state records broken Saturday came in the boys 4×800 relay as Greely of Cumberland Center’s James LePage, Andy Fitch, Logan Price and Mark McCauley ran an 8:03.57, and the girls javelin as Haley Knaub of Yarmouth threw a 126-4.

aneff@bangordailynews.net

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