ORONO, Maine — Lonnie Hackett’s Christmas present came before any snow flew or temperatures dropped.
When the Bangor High School senior sprinter found out that Ben Sinclair was transferring from Brewer, it was a gift that left Hackett smiling.
“It’s funny, when he was coming over everyone I know thought I’d be intimidated or unhappy about it, but I loved it,” Hackett said. “He’s a good guy.”
Sinclair also just happens to be one of the fastest sprinters in the state, as he holds the fastest 400-meter time ever run by a Maine schoolboy runner (49.59 seconds), two Eastern Maine Indoor Track League records (the 400 time and 22.79 in the 200) and is the reigning Class A state champ in the 55 dash and 200.
That resume, coupled with an already established sprinter in Hackett and an ace distance runner in Sam Nisbett, makes coach Jaime Cooke’s Rams a state championship contender.
“All of a sudden we went from maybe winning PVC’s to a contender for state’s so I’m real happy about that,” said Hackett, who finished fourth in Class A in the 400 last winter.
Hackett and Sinclair, who have been two of the EMITL’s top sprinters over the last few winters, had no problem forming a bond, as they have been competing against each other for several years and were teammates on Bangor’s football team this fall.
“He helped me in football, I help him in track. It’s a good relationship,” said Sinclair, who won three races in a meet Tuesday while Hackett picked up two second-place finishes.
Hackett has also picked up a few tidbits from Sinclair, such as how to drive out of the starting blocks and pick his knees up higher. They also feed off each other in practice.
“We’re both really competitive, neither one of us want to let down, to have a meet atmosphere every practice, not many teams have that,” Hackett said.
Hackett added that Sinclair “has a great work ethic, he helps the whole team out.”
Sinclair’s main focus this winter is defending his state championships and adding another in his signature event, the 400.
“I’m just going to work hard, I know my teammates are going to help me and I’ll help them,” Sinclair said. “[The 400’s] the big one, of course I want the other two just as much as the 400.”
Hackett’s athletic accomplishments have been impressive this year as he compiled more than 2,000 rushing yards to lead Bangor to the Class A state championship game in football. The Fitzpatrick Trophy finalist is eyeing more on the track.
“Right now our team has been winning, but it’s just something that’s been happening,” he said. “We’re trying to get the best seed times, get in shape and not peak too early.”
Small but powerful
They may be short on numbers, but the Orono girls track team isn’t short on talent.
Even though coach Chris Libby only fields a squad of 16 athletes, some of the best competitors in the EMITL are Red Riots, including Holli Kenison, Shelby Wheeler, Chloe Paul and Alex Crocker.
Orono’s core athletes certainly know what its like to taste success, as Crocker, Paul, Wheeler and Alyssa Bates all played key roles on the Red Riots’ 2008 and 2009 Eastern Maine Class C soccer championship squads.
Kenison is one of the state’s top hurdlers and jumpers — she won the long jump Tuesday while coming in second in the hurdles — while Wheeler excels in the jumps and pole vault and Paul in the sprints.
“Despite not having big numbers, every athlete on this Orono team embodies everything a coach would want out of a track and field athlete,” said Libby.
Since Orono’s numbers aren’t high, its expectations are fairly simple: Be as competitive as can be against the likes of Bangor, Old Town and Brewer.
“We can’t look forward to lofty team expectations in a meet like this [against Bangor, Brewer and Old Town] because we are so small,” Libby said. “But it’s really nice when you look at the team scores in a meet like this and you realize despite not having the numbers, that we’re still able to measure ourselves fairly well against those big teams.”