Most members of the Caribou High School track and field squad spent the winter enjoying other pursuits.
Since the school does not have an indoor team, some of the athletes played basketball, while others competed on the Vikings’ Nordic ski team or another activity.
The girls team made a strong showing during its opener at Brewer last Saturday, winning a multiteam meet against the likes of the Witches and Old Town. Coach Roy Alden’s squad combined some stalwart front-line performances with good depth to set a positive tone for 2012.
“This should be a pretty good group,” said Alden, who is celebrating his 31st season guiding the Caribou program. “We’ll have to contend with Bangor, who’s quite strong and quite deep with the middle distances, hurdles and jumps.”
The Rams have won seven consecutive Penobscot Valley Conference large-school titles.
The time away from the track hasn’t stopped Caribou from getting out of the blocks quickly during the PVC outdoor season.
Alden explained that his athletes must transition from their winter sports training to track and field.
“The quickness events, the jumping events, are where we’re always behind early,” Alden said. “We have kids that are doing endurance events [cross country, Nordic skiing] all year long.”
The Vikings, who finished third behind Bangor and Old Town at the 2011 PVC large-school championships, return several key competitors this spring.
Among the leaders is senior thrower Morgan Swan, who won the shot put (32 feet, 8¾ inches), the discus (87-11) and the javelin (94-0) at the Brewer meet. All of the throws met the qualifying (q) standards for the Class B state championship meet.
Junior Olivia Sleeper was a three-event scorer in the sprints, taking second in the 100 (q) and 400 (q) and finishing third in the 200.
Sarae Sager, a senior, gives the Vikings a presence in the hurdles. She was second in the 100 (q) and third in the 300 (q) during the Brewer meet.
Junior Mackenzie Belyea was victorious in the 3,200 with a time of 12 minutes, 47.76 seconds (q), tied for second in the pole vault and joined with junior Alissa Randolph, junior Meredith Sleeper and senior Katie Plourde to take the 4×800 relay in 11:15.14. Plourde also was fourth in the triple jump at Brewer.
Alden said with some limitations posed by the late-spring weather in Aroostook County force the Vikings to be creative with their early season training.
“A lot of it is finding different ways to motivate,” Alden said. “We compete against each other all the time and do things that will keep them motivated and working hard.”
On Thursday, the winning team from Caribou’s “Pizza Olympics,” a series of competitions pitting two squads of athletes against each other, enjoyed eating their reward.
Among other Caribou girls capable of scoring significant points are senior racewalker Page Small, who was first at Brewer in 8:48.74 (q), along with senior thrower Sam Murchison. Freshman distance runner Sarah Doak is an up-and-comer who has qualified for the state meet in the 800 and 1,600.
Alden has a veteran staff of assistants sharing their talents, including Todd Alley (throws), P.J. Gorneault (distance, jumps) and Todd Albert (pole vault, sprints).
“The four of us work together quite well,” Alden said. “It’s good having people that are quite knowledgeable, are good disciplinarians and have experience.”
He also praised the team’s upperclassmen, who are willing to share their experience and expertise to help the younger athletes excel.
The Caribou boys are led by junior Brendan Wood, who captured three events in the Brewer meet. He won the 110 hurdles in 17.52 seconds and the 300 hurdles (44.86) and took the triple jump (37-6).
Senior sprinter Nick Pucci and senior racewalker Josh Kovach are among other veterans on a younger Vikings squad.
“Our boys distance runners should do well as the season progresses,” Alden said. “We had a good cross country team again. We’ve won Eastern Maine four years in a row now.”
Alden’s hope is several athletes who made state-meet appearances last season can elevate their performances this spring.
On Saturday, numerous Eastern Maine teams will be in Bar Harbor for the Mount Desert Island relays.
UMaine headed to Penn Relays
The University of Maine’s outdoor track teams, which have turned in well-rounded efforts in recent weeks that have included several school records, are in Philadelphia.
The Black Bears are scheduled to compete Thursday, Friday and Saturday at the Penn Relays, while some athletes will be in action Saturday in a meet at the University of New Hampshire.
UMaine is gearing up to host the America East Championships May 5-6 at the Beckett Family Track and Field Complex in Orono.