ELLSWORTH, Maine — Dan Curts’ final year of high school distance running has not been without adversity.
First there was the hamstring injury that sidelined the Ellsworth High School senior for much of last fall’s cross-country campaign.
Then came the renovation project at the University of Maine’s New Balance Field House that continued through much of January, limiting the indoor track meets and practice time available to indoor track and field athletes throughout Eastern Maine.
Yet through it all, Curts has continued to run at an elite, record-setting level.
He won his second straight Class B cross country state championship in November, then went on to earn a top-20 finish at the Foot Locker national championships. He also won the Class B indoor two-mile state title and anchored Ellsworth’s victorious 3,200-meter relay team in February.
Then, on Feb. 23 Curts set a state indoor record with a clocking of 8 minutes, 23.85 seconds in the 3,000-meter run at the USATF New England Indoor Track and Field Championships held at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass.
Curts followed that up last Saturday by eclipsing the 38-year-old indoor two-mile state record during the New England Interscholastic Boys’ and Girls’ Indoor Track and Field Championships at the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center in Roxbury, Mass. There, he established a new personal best of 9:07.24.
“I was in very good shape at the start of [cross-country], I had put in a good summer,” said Curts, who has accepted an athletic scholarship to attend Iowa State University in the fall. “Six weeks without running in the middle of the cross-country season was tough, but I had a couple of solid weeks at the end of cross-country season and I was starting to see the benefit of that.
“And even though it’s been a unique indoor season in Eastern Maine and not really racing much that fitness has carried over,” he said.
Curts’ two-mile time at the New Englands was good for third place in the race but also ranks as the third- or fourth-fastest time for the distance by a high school runner nationwide so far this year, depending on the listing source.
Curts left that event feeling there are better times ahead.
“The race played out the way I would have liked it to, I just didn’t have quite enough at the finish,” he said. “I had raced the previous Sunday, ran a hard workout Wednesday and then had this [two-mile] race Saturday, and looking back on it they were probably bunched a little too close together and it left my legs feeling a little flat.”
Part of Curts’ reaction to his two-mile time at the New Englands was mitigated by the fact the state record he broke had been held by former Lawrence of Fairfield star Bruce Bickford, who went on to compete in the 10,000-meter final of the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea.
“I wanted to run a little quicker, but it’s tough to be disappointed with the record even though I know I didn’t have a great day,” he said. “I was happy to get that record for sure.”
Curts’ hope for a faster time also was fueled by his 3K effort six days earlier, which was the equivalent of a 9:01 two-mile run.
“The 9:22 I ran at states made me a little nervous,” he said, “but I was happy with the 3K, that was a good sign. That race helped me mentally, and let me know what kind of shape I was really in.”
Curts is gearing up for his final major indoor competition of the season, the New Balance Indoor Nationals scheduled for March 14-16 at the Armory in New York City.
He hopes to break 9:00 in the two-mile, which is scheduled for the final day of the meet.
“I’d like to be competitive,” he said, “and if I have a good day I think I could be right in that race. “The way I look at it is I ran a 9:07 and I didn’t think I had that good of a day.”