ORONO, Maine — Justin Gagne spent the fall semester sidelined by a hand injury.
That meant until recently, he had not competed for the University of Maine since last spring.
The time off might have been just what the doctor ordered for the junior from Biddeford.
Gagne has excelled since returning to competition for the Black Bears this month. Last Saturday at New Hampshire, he uncorked a throw of 55 feet, 3 inches in the shot put to take second place and earn a berth in the IC4A Championships scheduled for later in the season.
Gagne’s throw was a personal best and also ranks second on UMaine’s all-time performance list.
He also uncorked a heave of 153-5 to win the discus competition.
“I’ve been doing pretty well this year,” said Gagne, who had been out of action since last summer after injuring his throwing hand.
“I sprained a ligament right below the base of my right index finger, which is my throwing hand,” he explained. “I couldn’t load it. I couldn’t do anything where I stretched it, to the point where I was in constant pain.”
The injury kept him out of training in the fall and he redshirted during the indoor season, but he hasn’t missed a beat.
During UMaine’s home meet on March 31, Gagne qualified for the IC4As in the discus with a 157-6 effort that ranks among the top 10 throws in program history.
He believes the time off was beneficial and has helped him make a strong start to the outdoor season.
“It was nice,” Gagne said. “It gave me an actual break from the sport and from lifting and I was able to recuperate. Now my body is reflecting that
rest I finally got.”
Gagne had a productive 2010-11 season. He placed eighth in the shot put at the America East Indoor Championships, then took second in the shot and fourth in the discus during the league outdoor title meet.
Gagne is quick to spread out the credit for his continued improvement. He praised coaches Rollie Ranson and Gerhard Skall and his teammates for providing valuable input.
“They’re actually kind of jacks of all trades,” he said of his coaches. “They have quite a repertoire of knowledge.”
In addition to film work that provides an in-depth look at technique, his fellow throwers also have been helpful.
“I’ve got a lot of help from my teammates,” Gagne said. “They pick up things that everybody else misses. It’s a collective effort from everyone.”
Gagne began his track and field career as a junior at Biddeford High School. He was somewhat of a quick study as he took second in the discus and third in the shot put during his first outdoor campaign.
As a senior, he claimed the Class A state title in the shot put, but was quick to point out the top seed was injured and unable to compete.
“I got lucky, because there were four of us that could have won it,” he added.
Gagne, an economics major, hopes to continue refining his form in the hope of achieving more outstanding throws as this season and his career progress.
“I just hope I can put it all together and do real well and then reach my ultimate goal of going to NCAA nationals,” Gagne said.
UMaine continues its spring season Saturday with another meet at UNH.
Track and field athletes from across eastern and northern Maine are hard at work preparing for the start of the Penobscot Valley Conference season.
The spring season opens April 20 with an 11-team meet hosted by Bangor High School at Cameron Stadium. The action continues April 21 as both Brewer and Bucksport will entertain nine other teams at their facilities.
The MDI Relays are scheduled for April 28.
Plenty of useful information about Maine track and field, along with road races, is available on the Sub 5 Track Club website at sub5.com.