ORONO — Grace Maclean burst onto the state’s track and field scene in a big way last winter, setting a Class A state record in the high jump while enjoying a strong freshman campaign for Bangor.
Old Town junior Jake Leithiser has made a profund statement so far this season that he is one of the state’s best high jumpers and hurdlers.
Both of those individuals earned some midseason bragging rights at the University of Maine on Friday evening, with Maclean winning two individual events and Leithiser three in the Eastern Maine Indoor Track League’s third regular-season meet.
Both athletes wound up leading their respective teams to victories, with the Bangor girls cruising to victory while the Old Town boys charged back to nip Hampden on the boys’ side.
The Coyotes finished with 117 points to Hampden’s 107, followed by Bangor (70), Brewer (65), Winslow (32), John Bapst of Bangor (31) and Rockland (4).
The Bangor girls won in comfortable fashion behind Maclean’s three wins, posting 126.3 points while Old Town compiled 86.5.
Brewer finished with 56.3, followed by John Bapst (48), Winslow (43.8), Rockland (42) and Hampden (28).
In the boys’ meet, Leithiser, who cleared 6 feet, 4 inches in the high jump last week, narrowly missed on three attempts at 6-5 while settling for a winning height of 6-2. He also won the 55 hurdles in 8.18 seconds and made it a sweep by winning the 200 in 24.04.
Leithiser was making his debut in the 200, and it was an impressive one, as he held off teammate Jacob St. Peter and Roy Donnelly of Hampden to claim his third win of the night.
“I’ve never run a 200 before, I turned around that corner, and with 50 yards left my form just fell apart, so I just gave everything I had in the tank. I was just using it right there,” Leithiser said. “That was a great race.”
Leithiser won the high jump comfortably, allowing him to go for a personal-record of 6-5, and even though he came up just short, the Coyotes’ standout is confident he’ll get it eventually.
“I had the win in the bag already, so I tried to get the PR,” Leithiser said. “I was feeling really good, so it was worth a try. There’s always room for improvement, its just a matter of time.”
Leithiser’s Coyotes made quite the comeback in taking the team crown.
After 11 events, Hampden led Old Town 101-71, but a 2-3-5 finish in the pole vault from Mackenzie Bowen, Zach Labree and Robbie Keane vaulted coach Rod White’s club back into contention, and when the Coyotes’ 4×220 team of Jared Winchenbach, Lee Jackson, John McCullagh and Dan Gastia won that race in 1:39.72 and Hampden failed to finish after dropping the baton, it was a four-point meet heading into the final event of the night, the triple jump.
Gastia wound up winning that event with a leap of 39-5, with Matt Richard finishing second (39-2) and Jackson fourth (36-9.50) to cement the victory.
The Coyotes and Broncos certainly proved they are going to be the league’s favorites this winter, and even though Round 1 went to Old Town, there’s a long ways to go.
“I think as a team we’re very versatile, Coach can put me in a lot of events to see where I’ll be for Easterns,” said Leithiser.
Evan Piccirillo wound up with a pair of impressive individual wins to power Hampden, covering the 800 in 2:04.66 and the 2 mile in 10:58.85, while Jonathan Stanhope of Bangor won the mile in 4:56.46.
In the girls’ meet, Maclean started her night off by claiming the long jump with a mark of 15-7 while continuing to lower Eastern Maine’s top standard in the 55 hurdles, clocking in at 9 seconds flat.
Maclean was second in Class A in the hurdles last winter, and she’s proving that she hasn’t lost a step as a sophomore.
“I guess I’m comfortable with it (now), we have good coaching, coach (Shannon) Fotter helps me a lot,” said Maclean, who was also third in the high jump, clearing five feet.
Like a lot of athletes are at this point in the season, Maclean is looking at the big picture in the hurdles, and all of her events.
“I’d like to break nine (again), but I did my best,” she said. “I felt pretty strong tonight.”
Maclean is also flourishing in the long jump, which gives the Rams more flexibility.
“I had tried the long jump last year, I think with more practice I could get stronger at that too,” she said.
Maclean and Anna Hayden, who cleared 8-6 to take the pole vault, were Bangor’s lone individual winners, but the Rams were simply too deep for all the other schools.
Lexie Achorn had a solid evening, placing fourth in the 55 and 400 while Jade Baumrind, Hayden, Tiffany Gray and Laken Thomas teamed up to help Bangor take the 4×220 relay in 1:53.66.
Other individual winners in the girls meet included Brewer senior Michelle Haluska, who covered the mile in 5:36.15, Tia Jackson of Old Town’s 1:03.26 finish in the 400, John Bapst’s Maggie Bryan in the 800 (2:30.18), Kate McLeod of Brewer in the shot put (30-10.25), Jen Daley of John Bapst in the high jump (5-2), Winslow’s Molly Schassberger in the 2 mile (12:38.66), Katie DeShane of Old Town in the 200 (28.68) and Rockland’s Bethany Berry in the triple jump (34-2.25).