Maine’s top two schoolboy distance runners will share more than athletic ability come this fall.
Ellsworth’s Dan Curts and Josef Holt-Andrews of Telstar Regional High School in Bethel will be roommates and scholarship athletes at Division I Iowa State University.
The two seniors, who represented Maine last month at the Foot Locker cross country national championships in San Diego, have made verbal commitments to attend Iowa State, a Big 12 Conference school in Ames, Iowa, with an undergraduate enrollment of approximately 32,000.
“Ever since middle school this has kind of been the goal,” said Curts, who expects to sign his National Letter of Intent on Feb. 5.
Holt-Andrews could not be reached for comment, but Telstar athletic administrator Gail Wight confirmed Wednesday that he has made a verbal commitment to attend Iowa State this fall.
Curts and Holt-Andrews will join a growing group of recent Maine high school runners now finding opportunity on the NCAA Division I level. That contingent includes someone already at Iowa State in former Waterville Senior High School star Bethanie Brown, current Purdue All-American Matt McClintock of Athens, Dartmouth senior Will Geoghegan of Brunswick, former Dartmouth star Ben True of North Yarmouth, recent Oklahoma graduate Riley Masters of Bangor and Ellsworth senior Aleta Looker, who will continue her career at Georgetown this fall.
Curts had been recruited by Iowa State coach Martin Smith since last winter, in part through the urging of Masters, who had run under Smith at Oklahoma where he had coached until moving to Iowa State this year.
“Dan has gone to a lot of the running camps I’ve spoken at, and after one of them he asked me about coach Smith,” said Masters, who now runs professionally for Brooks Running and lives in Seattle.
“But I had a lot of conversations with coach Smith about Dan and Joe, telling him about the talent they had and how they’d fit in there. I’m happy if I helped them out in any way at all.”
That recruiting interest grew more serious after Curts won his second Class B state outdoor track championship in the 1,600-meter run last spring in a state meet-record time of 4 minutes, 14.02 seconds.
Curts, also the two-time reigning Class B cross country state champion, took official recruiting visits to Iowa State and Purdue as well as unofficial visits to Brown and Dartmouth. He also had planned visits to Georgetown and Oklahoma State but decided not to take them after narrowing his choices to Iowa State and Purdue.
“There were a group of schools there that I thought none would be a bad choice, but after I visited and met the coach at Iowa State that’s where I decided to go,” said Curts. “I got along really well with Martin Smith, and his history of coaching excited me.”
Smith has coached five different cross country and track and field teams to NCAA championships during a 33-year career that included previous stops at George Mason, Virginia, Wisconsin, Oregon and Oklahoma.
During his own recruiting process, Curts alerted ISU coaches about Holt-Andrews, the reigning Class C cross country state champion as well as winner of the 2013 Festival of Champions meet in Belfast.
“I’m not sure if they were already talking to Joe, but I was talking to Jeremy Sudbury [an Iowa State assistant coach who was a teammate of Masters’ under Smith at Oklahoma] at one point and said there’s this guy who goes to Telstar High School in Maine who’s running really well, and at some point they started talking to him,” Curts said.
“Then when we went to San Diego we talked about it quite a lot. We got along really well out there, and now we plan to room together at Iowa State.”
Both runners will take an impressive running resume to the Ames campus, including their performances as the Foot Locker nationals where Holt-Andrews earned second-team All-American honors with his 10th-place finish while Curts placed 19th in the elite 40-runner field.
In addition to his cross country success, which included a third-place finish at the 2013 New England interscholastic championships, Holt-Andrews is the reigning Class C outdoor champion in the 1,600- and 3.200-meter runs.
Curts, who won his second straight Class B cross country state title this fall, also is the defending Class B indoor state champion in the mile and two-mile while in outdoor track last spring he won both the 1,600 and 3,200 and anchored Ellsworth’s state championship 4×800-meter relay team.
Curts’ ultimate collegiate specialty may be a race he’s never attempted — the steeplechase, a distance running event that requires competitors to jump over hurdles as well as a water barrier each lap around the track.
“In talking to my coach and uncle, [Ellsworth cross country and outdoor track] coach [Andy] Beardsley, he keeps pushing the steeplechase, which is interesting to me,” said Curts, who never saw a steeplechase water pit until he took his recruiting visit to Purdue. “It’s a race that’s a lot of fun to watch, and it encompasses a wide range of athleticism more than just running.
“When we go out running through town, I don’t know why but I always jump over benches and for sale signs without even thinking about it. And whenever I do it [coach] Beardsley always says ‘steeplechase.’”