HERMON, Maine — As Kaitlin Saulter of Hermon High School approached the finish line of the 400-meter dash Saturday at the Class B state track and field outdoor championships, she could see her chance of breaking the state record she already held was within reach.
“The last 100 meters I realized I had a chance,” said the Hawks’ junior. “I ran fast the last bit to make sure I did beat it.”
It paid off.
“When I crossed the finish line, I knew I broke 58 [seconds],” she said. Her official time was 57.76 seconds, snapping the old Class B mark of 58 flat that she set as a freshman in 2011.
The attempt to break it was two years in the making.
“I pulled a quad [muscle] in preseason,” Saulter said of last season. “It was slow going at first [in my recovery].”
Saulter finished second last year at the state meet, forging a determined motivation for this year.
“It made me want to beat [the record] even more,” she said. “I pushed myself really hard to try and break it.”
She worked harder to prepare for soccer last fall and for track, but she said she also worked smarter.
“I made sure I warmed up more so I was prepared to do hard sprints so I wouldn’t pull it again,” she said.
Now she’s headed back to the New England Championships at Willowbrook Park in New Britain, Conn., on Saturday.
“It was a great experience,” said Saulter of her trip following her freshman year.
Winners from each class of the state meet plus the next three best results overall automatically qualify for New England’s, but athletes can decide to participate in fewer events. If an athlete decides to drop an event or skip the meet altogether, that spot will be filled by the next best performer. Only athletes who scored in the state meet are eligible.
“I got to see how fast people are outside of Maine,” said Saulter, who finished 17th in 59.19 in 2011. “I was amazed how fast they were and how competitive it was. I was glad I got to go.”
Saulter is upbeat about going again.
“I feel more confident going in [because of my 2011 experience],” she said. “I am more excited [to race].”
She’ll have company, too, because the 4-by-100 relay team also qualified. Molly Roy, Maddie Page and Kaylin Rogers are Saulter’s teammates, and Hermon head coach Amy Luce will also attend.
Saulter expects to be facing about 35 other runners in the 400, but she won’t be affected by her opponents.
“Every time I run I want to beat my [personal record] and leave everything on the track,” she said. “My strategy is to start strong, try to get ahead and stay ahead the whole way and push through it.”