Strong Bangor contingent set for New England meet

Posted March 03, 2010, at 10:41 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Not a lot of high school athletes experience a freshman year like Bangor’s Grace Maclean.

She was the leading scorer for the Rams’ girls soccer team, and quickly blossomed into one of the best athletes in the Eastern Maine Indoor Track League.

But at the Class A state championships last month, she surprised herself and even her coaches by setting a state record in the high jump, clearing 5 feet, 6.25 inches.

That mark has earned her a spot among the best athletes in New England, and Maclean will be seeded third in the girls’ high jump for Friday’s New England championships at the Reggie Lewis Center in Boston.

Maclean, who will also compete in the 55 hurdles and the 4×200-meter relay, is the only Maine schoolgirl to be seeded in the top six and only one of two Maine individuals — Brunswick’s Will Geoghegan is the No. 2 boys runner in the mile — to be among the top ranked performers.

“I don’t think we necessarily expected her to break a state record, that was definitely a wonderful surprise,” first-year Bangor head coach Jaime Cooke said. “We really did hope for a championship for her.”

As a team, the Rams will be well-represented in Boston, with three individual qualifiers: Maclean, Josiah Hartley (boys high jump), Ben Sinclair (300 dash) and a boys’ 4×800 relay team and the girls 4×200 slated to compete.

“This is an experience where we can see some top-notch competition,” Cooke said. “We’ll be able to experience a whole different track culture than we’re used to in Maine.”

In the girls’ high jump, the only two jumpers ranked ahead of Mac-lean — Kristen McDonagh from Mansfield, Mass., and Moira Cronin of Andover, Mass. — have both cleared 5-8.

Bangor’s coaching staff expected fairly big things from Maclean this winter, as she built up a solid repu-tation in middle school, clearing 5 feet as an eighth-grader and coached by Cooke’s father, Ray, at the William S. Cohen School.

“She’s self-motivated [which is] incredible for a young athlete,” Jaime Cooke said. “She has a competitive fire, and you can just tell on her face she’s ready to deliver.”

Cooke doesn’t think the expected sellout crowd at the cozy Reggie Lewis Center will bother Maclean.

“I think she’ll handle it really well. She just has that ability to focus and zone in on what she needs to do,” she said.

The Rams’ contingent, which includes 10 athletes and the coaching staff, will head to Boston Friday morning and return to town Saturday.

That contingent also includes the EMITL-record holding 4×200 team of Maclean, Brittney Chapman, Jade Baumrind and Laken Thomas, along with the 4×800 squad Alex Shi, Jonathan Belanger, Juergen Pilot and Sam Nisbett.

This’ll mark the fifth straight year that the Rams have qualified a 4×800 relay team under Cooke’s watch.

She coached the distance runners for four years under former coach Maynard Walton before assuming the head coaching role this winter.

“They’ve always been pretty motivated, they love running on that track,” Cooke said.

Hartley will be participating in his first New England meet while Sinclair, the Class A state champion in the 400 and 200, has plenty of experience on this stage.

Since one of his best events is the 400, he may have little trouble adjusting to running a 300, which is the event he will be competing in.

In the New England meet, the 200 dash becomes a 300, the 400 a 600 and the 800 run a 1,000-meter race.

The EMITL will be well-represented in the relays, with the Brewer and Ellsworth girls sending 4×800 teams, the Orono girls a 4×2 squad and the Hermon boys a 4×200 team.

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