BREWER, Maine — Youth sports is a time when kids find out which ones they like and which ones they’re good at. In a sport such as track and field, the decision becomes even more fine-tuned as they try out different events.
Jake Koffman of Orono and Alexis Wintle of Windham were prime examples of that at the youth state championship meet held Sunday by the Maine Association of USA Track and Field at the new Brewer Community School track and field facility. Approximately 900 boys and girls were split among four age groups — mite (8 and under), bantam (9-10), midget (11-12) and youth (13-14), plus some intermediate (15 and not yet in high school).
Koffman, who raced in youth boys for the Red Riot Track Club, posted wins in the 200-meter dash and the 400 run and was second in the pole vault.
“I looked at all the standings on the Sub-5 [Track Club] website and figured my best chance [to do well] would be in the 200 and 400,” said the 14-year-old Koffman, who chose those two over the javelin and 100 dash. The pole vault was a given.
Wintle, a member of the Windham Track Club, posted a pair of victories herself, both early in the day, in the youth girls 1,500 race-walk followed by a win in the high jump.
The two events have very little in common. The race-walk usually has a short stride and requires that one foot always be in contact with the ground. The high jumper uses long strides to approach the bar and both feet leave the ground, hopefully by enough to clear the bar.
“It requires me to really concentrate on form,” said Wintle, also 14. “You don’t just switch one little thing, you have to switch it all.”
And that’s something that drew Wintle to race-walking.
The high jump is Wintle’s favorite, while Koffman’s is the 400, but with an asterisk.
“It’s definitely the one that hurts so much,” he said. “You have to run so fast for so long. The last 50, you can’t feel anything. Your legs are like rubber.”
Then there’s the pole vault, which he also likes.
“It’s so technical, there are so many parts to it,” said Hoffman. “You have to practice a lot to get the form down.”
Wintle matched her best meet performance with a 4-feet-10-inch jump Sunday, 4 inches better than her closest competitor. She won a tight 1,500 race-walk (8:42.52) by less than a second.
Koffman was introduced to track and field through his older sister, Lily.
“I went to a couple of practices and liked it, and I’ve been doing it ever since,” he said.
Koffman won the 400 (57.59 seconds) by more than two seconds and added the 200 in 25.88.
Cayd Wortman of Brewer and Koffman matched heights in the pole vault (8-6), but Wortman earned the win by having fewer misses.
“I was feeling a lot of pressure. [Koffman] has always been ahead of me,” said Wortman, whose Brewer Track Club became meet host because the facility at Cony High in Augusta is being renovated.
It was different Sunday.
“Whenever I jumped, there was no rain. When he jumped it would be raining. I guess it was just my day,” said Wortman, whose older brothers Tristan and Alec are pole vaulters as well.
Austin Taylor of Pittsfield won the 100 (13.90), 200 (28.78) and 400 (1:05.30) in youth girls, and Alexandra Hart, who ran unattached, set a state mark in the midget girls’ 400 (1:04.82) and also won the 200.
Wortman appreciates having a summer program that helps him stay in competitive shape.
“Once I get to high school, I’ll have a head start on it and a lot of kids don’t have that,” he said.
Wintle and Koffman plan to keep going with track.
“I definitely want to do this in high school,” said Wintle, “and I’d like to be able to go to college and do it there, too.”
“I definitely want to do outdoor [track and field] in high school,” said Koffman, who will be going into eighth grade this fall. “I love running. The feeling of success is incredible.”