ORONO, Maine — The long-awaited completion of the University of Maine’s New Balance Field House has helped produce some high-energy performances by area track and field athletes.
That dynamic was in evidence during Saturday’s Penobscot Valley Conference-Eastern Maine Indoor Track League Championship in Orono, and in Boston where members of the UMaine squads competed in Boston University’s Valentine Invitational.
Synclaire Tasker of Brewer had a day to remember Saturday, taking home first-place medals in the 55-meter hurdles, the triple jump and the 200. She believes the limited competition opportunities prior to the meet worked in her favor, at least from a psychological standpoint.
“It’s almost been easier,” said a beaming Tasker after picking up her third win of the day in the 200 meters. “There’s been so few meets that I’m just thinking ‘this is it, you’ve got to go hard today, or else you never know.’”
Less practice has been a good news, bad news proposition for Brewer senior Alec Wortman.
He took top honors in the pole vault and the triple jump, adequate preparation for which requires the ability to practice with specialized pits and equipment only available at UMaine.
“You can’t really pole vault in the hallways at the middle school,” joked Wortman, who a week earlier set the PVC-EMITL record with a vault of 13 feet, 6 inches.
Once the field house reopened, it was about trying to make up for lost practice and competition time.
“When we had the last couple weeks here, it finally opened up, it felt really good and I got to start up doing what I love doing again,” Wortman said.
The extra down time may have helped him physically, as he has been dealing with a hernia. He has been treating it with pressure, heat and ice.
“Really what it comes down to is the adrenaline in meets,” Wortman said. “I haven’t been feeling good. I was really nervous for this meet but then, coming in, the environment, everybody in this new field house, just gets me pumping and I really came out and performed.”
Distance runners also had to make some adjustments without the ability to train or compete indoors more than a couple of times.
It has been cold and icy most of the winter, but runners have gotten outside and run on the pavement for lack of an alternative.
Ellsworth senior Dan Curts also found a way Saturday to get past the training challenges when he broke a 15-year-old PVC-EMITL record in the mile (4 minutes,16.38 seconds) and also cruised to victory in the two-mile.
“I did one thing on a treadmill with a bunch of incline on it,” he said of his practice efforts. “It was odd, kind of like throwing stuff together to try to find something hard to do.”
Curts explained the significance of eclipsing the mile record previously held by Ellsworth’s Louie Luchini, who also serves as an assistant cross-country coach for the Eagles.
He admits being motivated by Luchini’s considerable successes.
“We get to run together quite a bit,” Curts said. “It’s been awesome, everything he’s done. It’s pretty motivational. It kind of opens your eyes to what’s possible.”
Another group that put it all together Saturday was the Bangor girls’ 4×200 relay team. The Rams went into the event with a seed time of 2:05.03, which had them in the slowest of the three heats.
Bangor’s team of freshman Rihan Smallwood, junior Abby Reynolds, sophomore Felicity Palmer and senior Tiffany Gray sped to 1:54.01 to win the race and help the Rams secure their fifth consecutive girls crown.
The late-starting season also may have played a role in setbacks for two of the league’s top performers.
Seniors Tia Jackson of Old Town and Peter Manuel of Bangor both were forced to sit out the title meet after suffering injuries in the Feb. 1 competitions.
The state championship meets are scheduled for Monday, Feb. 17, with Class A at the University of Southern Maine in Gorham and Class B at Bates College in Lewiston.
Leithiser shines for UMaine
A former PVC-EMITL star now competing for UMaine enjoyed a successful meet Saturday in Boston.
Jake Leithiser of Old Town made a run at UMaine’s record in the 500 meters, clocking a 1:02.95 at the Valentine Invitational. The performance by the sophomore enabled him to overcome a field of 78 runners for the win.
Leithiser’s time was only .23 seconds shy of the UMaine record of 1:02.72 set by Joe Moody.
The Black Bears also received a runner-up effort from Biddeford’s Justin Gagne in the shot put (56-1½), a third-place finish by Jimmy Reed in the 60-meter hurdles (7.99) and Wilson Adams’ fourth in the weight throw (60-1¼).
In the women’s meet Friday at BU, Emily Boardman was the lone UMaine competitor to register a top-10 finish. She placed ninth in the weight throw at 51-1¾.
UMaine hosts New Hampshire in a dual meet on Saturday.