BATH, Maine — After sweeping the boys’ and girls’ titles in Saturday’s Class B state championship track and field meet at McMann Field, the Waterville High School program appears to be primed for another run next spring.
The Purple Panthers will graduate nine of the 30 competitors on this year’s team with distance specialist Bethanie Brown being the top person moving on. For the boys, only six of the 35 participants are seniors, including javelin record-setter Nick Danner.
Coach Ian Wilson thinks his program will continue to be strong because of his experienced athletes’ leadership.
“We lose a lot of points in the seniors we have today. The neat thing is that our leaders have been really good role models,” Wilson said, “and especially during the spring where so many seniors get distracted, we really emphasize our seniors staying focused.”
He sees his teams accepting his point.
“I say, ‘If you guys stay focused, then you’re teaching the younger kids that this is how we do it in the spring,’” said Wilson. “Our seniors do a wonderful job of sticking with it, coming to practice, foregoing those other distractions seniors get involved in. I think we’ll be strong in the future because of that.”
Wilson gets more excited each year seeing his Panthers achieve their titles.
“Other coaches might get jaded” as the years pile up, he said, but he likes the whole process.
“You put in so much hard work with a lot of kids, you see them come together as a team, you challenge them every day in practice, you see them rise to challenges,” said Wilson. “We stress making improvements every single day. You have setbacks, you have obstacles you have to overcome.
“I think the most gratifying thing is seeing a group of kids realize they can overcome obstacles in their path.”
The Waterville girls will have some strong underclassmen coming back, led by triple state champion Sarah Shoulta, a sophomore who won the 100-meter hurdles, 300 hurdles and pole vault and ran the second leg of the winning 4-by-400 relay team.
Sophomore Kellie Bolduc was another key point producer as she won the triple jump, finished second in the 100 hurdles, third in the 300 hurdles and ran a leg of the 4-by-400 relays. Sophomore Lydia Roy also added points with a fourth in the 400, seventh in the 200 and legs on the 4-by-400 and runner-up 4-by-100 relays.
The boys are going to have to search harder for their points. Junior Jordhan Levine will be the key returnee after winning the triple jump, taking seconds in the two hurdle events and aiding the winning 4-by-400 relay.
Sophomore Chris Cote was third in the 3,200, freshman William Chambers was fourth in the 1,600 race walk and junior Chris Hale was fifth in the high jump.
But no matter how they’re all doing, the highly vocal Wilson will be everywhere on the field, urging on his athletes.
“I put a lot of miles on the sneakers today trying to get around [and] keep everybody going,” he said. “I am by nature a very high-strung individual. I don’t think it would work for me to sit in the stands and watch during a track meet. I have to be able to bounce around.”
Records good, wins better
Both Bethanie Brown of Waterville and Kate Hall of Lake Region, who collected four gold medals each, would have liked to add more gold medals, but they accepted that it would be difficult to maintain their high levels of performance in the 90-degree heat and were happy to get the wins.
“Yeah,” said Brown of getting records in the 1,600 and 3,200 runs to go with her 800 record, “except for the fact I’m pretty happy getting the wins in all three because that was my goal going into it.”
Her first event, the 1,600 didn’t occur until about a third of the way into the meet, so she was keenly aware of the heat’s effect on distance runners.
“I knew at the end of the mile I had to push hard,” she said, “but I also knew I had two more big events coming up with fairly close competition in them, so I just wanted to make sure I did my best in every event. I had to spread myself out a little bit.”
“She’s just a wonderful teammate,” said Wilson. “She offers to run three for the team. She doesn’t say, ‘Oh I want to concentrate on one or two events and get a state record.’ She says, ‘As many points as I can score for the team, coach, I want to score for the team.’ That’s always been her first priority. And I think that’s probably why her teammates love her so much.”
Hall, a sprinter and long jumper, collected records in the 100 and long jump but came up short in the 200, even though her seed time indicated she could break it.
“I was hoping for that [a record in the 200],” said Hall, a sophomore, “but I didn’t know how that was going to go because it was the end of the day and really hot out, and I’d probably be drained from all my other events, so I thought ‘That could be questionable, so I don’t know if I can get that one.’”
Brown, a senior, capped her distance work of the day by running the 4-by-400 relay anchor leg, something that might seem out of place.
“She loves it [4-by-400 relay],” said Wilson. “I’ve given her the opportunity many times to bow out of that. Especially after the 2-mile, you [usually] don’t have a break like that, but she says she just loves it. Her perspective is ‘It’s a good little speed workout on the end of my races.’ It caps a tremendous career for her.”