Mike Viani is a man of vision.
A couple of years ago, the Central of Corinth track and field coach jumpstarted the school’s indoor track program to go with its outdoor team.
Viani’s passion for the sport has again helped bring track to the area, this time at the recreational level.
The Central Track Club was established this summer to allow youngsters 14 and under to compete in weekly USA Track and Field-sanctioned meets against teams from Sebasticook Valley, Waldo County, Bangor, Brewer, Hampden, Orono and Old Town.
Forty-three youths are on the squad, and 37 of them will head to Cony High in Augusta on Saturday along with thousands of other competitors for the Maine USATF 14-and-under state championship meet.
Action gets under way at 9 a.m.
Viani decided to start the club program after his daughter, Jaeden, wanted to compete in the mite (8-and-under) age group, but not in a way Viani expected.
“I thought about taking my daughter up to Orono and helping Chris Libby out up there, and then I said, ‘That’s crazy, I can’t be helping out another team when I can get this thing going down here on my own and help my own team and get some local kids involved,’” Viani said.
Jaeden Viani won the 100- and 200-meter dashes in last week’s Northern Region championship meet in Bangor, and was on a 4×100 relay team that came in second, with help from her sister Julia.
Julia, the anchor leg, passed three competitors in the final 100 meters to earn her, Jaeden, Caroline Davis and Caitlyn Beyenberg runner-up honors.
Like Central High’s teams, the youth squad makes due with the facilities it has at the junior high school in Corinth.
“We get together at the middle school and we practice in the parking lot,” said Viani.
The team also has a throwing circle courtesy of Central’s athletic boosters, and a long jump pit built off a basketball court.
The main objective is to enjoy some fun in the sun.
“We gear our activities toward letting them have some fun, sprinting and racing against each other,” Viani said.
The Recreation Departments in Corinth and Kenduskeag were instrumental in getting the program off the ground.
Corinth’s recreation department bought the team’s USATF membership, which is required to compete in the meets, and sets of equipment that included shot puts, javelins, discuses and starting blocks, which the Kenduskeag recreation department also bought for the team.
“Gerald Gibson runs the Kenduskeag Rec and Wanda Poulin does the Corinth Rec; they were great,” Viani said.
Viani also attended a Corinth town meeting early in the summer and got support.
Parents have transported the competitors to weekly meets, most on Thursdays. Much like in the high school ranks — the boys earned PVC Class C runner-up honors last spring — Central has been extremely competitive.
“I’ve always stressed to my athletes, running is one of those sports where it doesn’t matter what town you’re from. If you’re fast, you’re fast,” said Viani.
That was evident in the regionals, as Katie LeBreton won the 80-meter hurdles and the 100 and 200 dashes in the midget (ages 10-11) division. Also on the girls’ side, Alyson Crocker was second in the midget shot put, javelin and discus and Hannah Crocker was fourth in the mite high jump.
On the boys’ side, Ryan LeBreton finished second in the mites 100 while Tyler LeBreton earned second in the bantam (ages 9-10) javelin.
Jared St. Peter had a solid regional meet in the youth (13-14) age bracket, placing third in the 100 and 200 and second in the 100 hurdles , while Christian Duncan won the long jump and 100 and was second in the high jump in the same age group.
Several Central High athletes, past and present, have helped Viani and assistant Alan Norris, including Tyler Duncan — Christian’s older brother — Aliza Underhill, Troy O’Bar and Joe Brown, this spring’s Class C state champion in the discus.
The parents have been a vital cog to the program’s success.
“They’ve been real good about helping kids get to their events, and I know we’re going to do it again next year with the [turnout] that we’ve had this year,” said Viani.