In a state that features the harshest of winter conditions, high school indoor track and field teams typically practice on hard concrete hallways while occasionally getting on a track surface.
But with temperatures unseasonably warm on Wednesday, Bangor coach Jaime Cooke decide to take her Rams outside, giving their joints a break from training in the winding hallways of the school.
“They need to be outside and getting fresh air and saving their legs. It’ll make them stronger,” the second-year Bangor head coach said.
It also helps prevent injuries such as shin splints, which can be common.
The Rams, like a lot of indoor track teams throughout the state, elected to open preseason practices this week as opposed to last Monday.
“We only had a two-day week in the Thanksgiving week, so we would’ve had to start all over again,” Cooke said.
Bangor swept the Eastern Maine Indoor Track League championships last winter, and while the boys squad graduated their top point-scorers in Ben Sinclair and Sam Nisbett, the girls have a big pool of returning talent.
That is led by Grace Maclean, the Class A state record holder in the high jump at 5 feet, 6.25 inches, while the sophomore also specializes in the short sprints and hurdles.
The Rams should have plenty of speed, with Jade Baumrind, Lexie Achorn and Laken Thomas also returning.
Baumrind is strong in the hurdles, as she medaled in the EMITL championships last winter, while Thomas and Achorn will be key in the short sprints and on Bangor’s 4×220 relay.
But the league is shaping up to be competitive this winter, especially on the girls side. Old Town will be stronger with the addition of freshman Tia Jackson, who enters the program with a lengthy youth track resume, to complement Katie DeShane. Brewer has one of the league’s top sprinters in sophomore Rachel Craig, while 2010 runner-up Orono features pole vault standout Shelby Wheeler and top sprinter Alex Crocker.
Wheeler set the league record in the pole vault last season, which stands at 10-2.
“(Orono) keeps building even with small numbers because they have a great youth summer program and middle school program, so I think it’s going to be a great season for competition,” Cooke said. “I always expect the league to be tougher.”
Bangor’s 90-athlete roster is focused on conditioning throughout the first couple of weeks, as is the case with most teams, and Cooke has liked what she has seen so far.
“They are actually a great group with that, the least amount of whining that I’ve experienced as a coach, which is pretty impressive,” she said.
The first meets of the season are set for Dec. 17 and 18, with EMITL meets set for that weekend at the University of Maine while the Bowdoin College Relays will be contested in Brunswick on Dec. 18.