A lot of the state’s top 55-meter hurdlers — including Class A state champion Jamie Ruginski of Bonny Eagle — have moved on from the high school ranks, opening the door for plenty of others to shine.
Steven Rice appears ready to take advantage of that opportunity.
Rice, a senior on the Brewer track and field team, showed Friday that he’ll be one of the favorites in the 55-meter hurdles in Class A this winter.
Rice, who was fifth in Class A last year, broke the 8-second barrier for the first time in his career in an Eastern Maine Indoor Track League meet, clocking in at 7.99 seconds while competing against Brunswick’s Kenzell Crawford, another top competitor.
“Having a chance to size up my competition before states is a pretty big advantage for me,” Rice said. “I like to know where I stand, and at this point I’m ranked first in the state. That was my goal for this year, so I’m really pumped.”
Rice’s personal-best before that was 8.14.
The race with Crawford was a good measuring stick for Rice, since those two are the only returning runners who earned top-six finishes in Class A last year.
“[Crawford’s] sort of my rival right now. I just really, really wanted to beat him,” Rice said
Rice did battle some hamstring issues in the first meet of the season, so he’s sort of baffled this type of success is coming so early.
“The first meet I had double pulls on my hamstrings and ran 8.33 which isn’t bad, but a 7.99 two weeks later, that’s pretty impressive,” he said.
While Rice’s main goal is to win a Class A state title, he’d also like to break Brewer’s school record of 7.80 seconds.
“I want New Englands so bad. That is definitely my goal for this year,” he said.
Rice is ranked as the state’s top hurdler, regardless of class.
Geoghegan tops the charts
The nation’s top-ranked schoolboy 2-miler in the country resides in Maine.
Brunswick senior Will Geoghegan soared to the top of the Dyestat rankings at the Dartmouth Relays last weekend, winning the boys’ 2-mile run in 9 minutes, 18.70 seconds.
Geoghegan, who will run for Dartmouth next fall, won the 800 meters in an EMITL meet the previous evening in Orono.
The Class A state cross country champion could be poised to take down a longstanding record at the Class A state meet next month.
The state record in the 2-mile is 9:09.5, set by Bruce Bickford of Lawrence in 1975. The former Northeastern University runner and University of Southern Maine coach is now the boys’ coach at Cheverus in Portland.
Hawks could be dangerous
One thing is clear after the first few weeks of meets in the EMITL: The Hermon boys are a contender.
The Hawks proved they belong with the league’s giants last Friday, as they finished fourth in a seven-way meet, beating out Class A teams Edward Little of Auburn and Brewer while coming in only 18 points behind Bangor, which finished second to Brunswick.
Hermon features quite an influx of talent, led by Ryan Feeney in the jumps, Justin Cullens, Jesse Graffam and Lance Hollobaugh in the sprints, and distance man Nick Byers.
Byers, Feeney, Graffam and Cullens also combined to lead the Hawks’ 4×220 relay team to a win last Friday in 1:36.99.
Feeney owns the league’s top marks in the long and triple jumps — he is undefeated in both of those events so far this winter — with distances of 20-5¼ and 41-3¼, respectively.
Both of those marks are also good for third in the state, regardless of class.
Cullens, Graffam and Hollobaugh will be key in the short sprints and relay while Byers’ best event is the 800, as he has run 2:04.01 so far this season.
Set the Pace in Camden
The second annual Set the Pace 5K road race, originally slated for Jan. 2 in Camden, will take place Sunday morning.
The race was postponed due to inclement weather.
It will take place at the Smokestack Grill, 43 Mechanic St. in Camden, with runners starting at 11:10 a.m. and walkers at 10:40.
Runners can preregister for $12 for a single, $20 for a couple, $25 for a family of three and $30 for a family of four or more until Saturday, while race-day prices are $15 for an individual, $25 per couple and $35 per family.
A postrace raffle with prizes, including a three-month membership to Point Lookout Gym, and ski lift and tubing passes from the Camden Snow Bowl, will be among the festivities as well.