Vicki Tolton didn’t know it at the time, but her success and versatility in track and field at the University of Maine has led to a strong venture in a different athletic arena.
The native of British Columbia, who holds six UMaine indoor and outdoor track school records, has developed a passion for CrossFit ever since leaving Orono. She cites all the cross-training required to be successful in track as a factor.
“We did so much Olympic weightlifting,” said Tolton, part of a nine-member class set to be inducted into the UMaine Sports Hall of Fame on Sept. 8.
“The training and the weightlifting, for sure, definitely crosses over into the CrossFit side,” added Tolton, who is training for a competition in October.
CrossFit involves high-intensity workouts based on functional movements that reflect the best aspects of gymnastics, weightlifting, running, rowing and other activities.
Tolton is one of the most decorated athletes in the history of the UMaine track and field program.
In addition to establishing six school records that still stand, Tolton racked up nine America East titles, two ECAC titles and participated in two NCAA championship meets in the 400 meters.
Tolton holds indoor school records in the 400 and 500 meters and the 400-meter hurdles, along with outdoor marks in the 400 hurdles, 4×400 relay and open 400 meters.
The 400, arguably the toughest sprinting event in track, was Tolton’s dominant event. She claimed five America East titles at the distance and was named the league’s most outstanding spring track athlete in 2010.
“It was great, I loved my experience there (at UMaine),” said Tolton, who is a nurse in British Columbia and has two children with husband James Brown.
Before coming to Orono, Tolton had captured the eye of UMaine assistant coach Rolland Ranson. He had been in British Columbia to scout a pole vaulter and happened to watch Tolton compete, and the rest is history.
She also specialized in volleyball and basketball in her youth, but became a collegiate track sensation under the tutelage of then-UMaine assistant Dave Cusano, now the head coach at Colby College in Waterville.
“The coaches were great,” said Tolton, who went on to praise Cusano for his outstanding coaching, along with UMaine head coach Mark Lech.
“I’d definitely say that my experience on the track team and the whole track team itself — not only the success I had running — but I would call it a family,” Tolton said. “We had a very, very close team.”
Tolton also wasn’t super nervous about being more than 3,000 miles from her native British Columbia.
“It definitely was a lot more welcoming than I expected,” she said.
Tolton’s career got off to a bit of a slow start as she redshirted her freshman outdoor season due to an Achilles’ injury. After returning, she only participated in meets, not doing any workouts on the track.
After college, Tolton went on to compete for the Canadian national team from 2010-2012, but in 2012, an Achilles’ injury ended her track career.
The doors to a career in nursing and a passion for fitness were open, and Tolton has pursued both, following a path similar to the one fellow Black Bear track star Jesse Labreck has with the TV show “American Ninja Warrior.”
“I don’t run competitively anymore but I’ve fallen in love with CrossFit,” Tolton said.
She hasn’t been back to campus since graduating, and is looking forward to returning to UMaine and seeing the renovated New Balance Field House.
“It was pretty old when I ran in it, I’m sure the athletes probably love it,” Tolton said.