Track and field is a sport that athletes of all abilities can enjoy, especially those that may not be as fortunate as their peers.
The Maine Principals’ Association is allowing athletes who have permanent physical disabilities and must use a wheelchair to get around to compete in meets around the state this spring.
Such athletes will be able to participate in the 100- and 400-meter dashes, the 800- and 1600-meter runs, the shot put and the discus.
Just like other participants, wheelchair athletes will compete against their own respective genders with goals of qualifying for the state championship meets in June.
Scoring in meets will be a tad different, however.
For example, if two wheelchair athletes are entered in the 100 dash, the winning athlete would accumulate two points for his or her team, while the second-place athlete would score one point. If eight athletes are entered — thus filling all eight lanes on most tracks throughout the state — scoring would go 10, 8, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1.
The wheelchair athletes will compete in heats separate from other competitors, and their times will be scored separately from the able-bodied competitors.
Minimum required standards for a male athlete to score points are 30 seconds in the 100, 2 minutes in the 400, 3 minutes, 3 seconds in the 800, 6:00 in the mile, 23 feet in the discus and 9 feet in the shot.
The girls standards are 40 seconds for the 100, 2:30 for the 400, 4:00 for the 800, 7:00 for the mile, 22 feet for the discus and 7 feet for the shot.
Should that happen, the athlete would contribute the appropriate amount of points to his or her team, regardless how their times or distances compare to other athletes.
Regulations for an athlete’s chair, as stated in a release on the Maine outdoor track and field web page, state that the chair should contain no more than four wheels, while only one push rim can be attached to each large wheel, and the seat cannot exceed 25 inches in height.
All athletes must wear a helmet while competing, regardless if it’s a field event or a track event.
To qualify for the state meets, wheelchair athletes must meet or exceed the qualifying standards, which are different for Classes A, B, and C, respectively.
The first Penobscot Valley Conference meets of the season are set for the weekend of April 22-23, with Bangor hosting a meet on April 22 and Bucksport and Orono hosting others on April 23.
USM names captains
The University of Southern Maine women’s track team has named five captains for the outdoor campaign.
Sharing the duties for coach George Towle’s team will be Vanessa Baird of Dover-Foxcroft, Carlyn Dion of Biddeford, Rachel Fisk of Kennebunk, Hillary Hall of Waldoboro and Erin Garvey of Haverhill, Mass.
All five had key roles in leading the Huskies to an 11th consecutive Little East Conference championship while also claiming the New England Alliance meet for the 10th time in 11 years.
Baird, a graduate of Foxcroft Academy, is off to a strong start in the throwing events for USM, recording a personal best in the shot put at 38 feet, 0.75 inches (11.60 meters) at the Florida State Relays recently. That mark placed her 14th in a field headlined by Division I athletes, and she also qualified for the New England Division III and ECAC Division III Championship meets. Baird earned All-Alliance recognition in three events last spring, and was an all-conference choice in two more.
Dion is coming off a strong indoor campaign in which she set school records in the 1,000 meters (3:01.20), along with the 4×800 and distance medley relays.
Individually, she finished third in the 800 and the mile in the Little East and Alliance meets indoors, and she holds USM’s 3,000-meter outdoor record at 10:36.11, set last spring.
Garvey will also key the Huskies’ distance corps, as she earned 13th overall at the Florida State Relays in the 1,500 meters, posting a personal best at 4:58.07.
Fisk will join Baird in spearheading USM’s throwers, and she had a career indoor campaign that included PRs in the shot put (36-5) and weight throw (42-8.75), placing in both events at the conference championships and in the shot at the Alliance meet.
Hall is the reigning conference and Alliance champion in the high jump, and cleared 5 feet in eight of her 10 indoor meets, including a seasonal best of 5-3.75. She tied for eighth place in the FSU Relays, clearing 5-1.