BANGOR — It’s a bit of a strange feeling to walk up to Cameron Stadium on a sun-splashed, early-April afternoon and not find Bruce Pratt coaching the John Bapst track and field teams.
While the Crusaders do have some familiar faces taking over the reins in Joe Capehart and Jeff Libby this spring, the goals and expectations remain the same for the Bapst girls, who have won eight of the last 10 Class C state championships.
With over 60 girls making up the team, it’s clear the Crusaders are going to have their trademark depth once again, headlined by a talented group of distance runners that led Bapst to a Class B state title in cross country in the fall.
“They’re all back out,” Capehart said. “Some of them are seniors, so I know they’re excited that this is their last season in high school and they’re looking forward to that.”
Capehart and Libby are the school’s head coaches for cross country, indoor track and skiing, so having that familiarity with the athletes will be key for them.
“That group in itself is really good about knowing what needs to be done and they’re good about that,” Capehart said. “They’re a very responsible group. I think they know what it takes.”
Among the key returnees for John Bapst will be sisters Mary and Adrienne Carmack and Maggie Bryan in the distance events and top sprinters Maggie Lynn and Brianne Robinson, along with an influx of newcomers.
“We do have a lot of freshmen and new runners out,” Capehart said.
Maria Ullo, Jen Daley and Carolyn Benner could also make an impact in the jumping events for Bapst. Daley was the Eastern Maine Indoor Track League champion in the high jump.
Capehart believes his experience coaching Bapst’s indoor team will help him this spring.
“It’s like coaching 12 different sports under one umbrella,” he said. “That and just splitting your time between a lot of different things.”
But having a top-notch coaching staff always makes things a lot easier.
“I think we’ve done a good job as far as coach Libby and coach (John) Halloran and myself as far as splitting those responsibilities up,” Capehart said.
Capehart, who is running in the Boston Marathon on Monday, expects the Crusaders’ competition in the Penobscot Valley Conference and statewide to be tough.
“We’ve done well in track in past years, obviously, but we’re going to have our work cut out for us,” he said. “Maranacook’s going to be a good team, MCI nearly beat us with all throwers and one distance girl last year.”
Maranacook of Readfield will feature one of the state’s most talented athletes in distance runner Abby Mace, while virtually all of MCI’s top throwers were underclassmen.
Orono, the 2010 state runner-up, will likely be the Crusaders’ chief competitor in the PVC, with Alex Crocker (hurdles, sprints) and Shelby Wheeler (sprints, pole vault) headlining the Red Riots’ top returning athletes.
But it helps that Bapst will face some heavy competition, as the Crusaders will run against PVC giants Bangor, Brewer, Old Town and Hampden Academy in three of their five regular-season meets.
“Being up in this league with a lot of schools that are good A and B schools is really beneficial for us as far as competition,” Capehart said.