Role models are valuable factors to a runner’s success, and Sam Nisbett has had plenty of them over the years.
As a freshman at Bangor High, he watched and admired as Casey Quaglia and Riley Masters helped lead the Rams to Class A state championships indoors and outdoors. As a sophomore, he witnessed Masters have an outstanding senior campaign as one of the top distance runners in Maine.
Now a junior, Nisbett is looking to carve his own initials into Bangor’s distance running legacy, and he’ll be one of the Rams’ best bets for big points at Saturday’s Class A state championship meet at Thornton Academy in Saco.
Nisbett, the PVC champion in the 1,600 and 3,200, is having an outstanding junior campaign, particularly in the 3,200, where his season-best time of 10 minutes, 2.56 seconds, earned him a No. 8 seed among his Class A brethren.
“I was aiming for like 10:20 maybe, or maybe under 4:40 [in the 1,600]. I didn’t expect to be down this low,” Nisbett said.
The Class B state meet will be at Mount Desert Island in Bar Harbor and the Class C competition at McMann Field in Bath, with all three starting at 10 a.m. with the 4×800 relay and preliminary heats in the dash and hurdles.
Nisbett ran a tough triple in hot conditions last weekend, anchoring Bangor’s 4×800 relay to an 8:29.27 winning effort prior to winning the 1,600 and 3,200, the latter of which proved to be the toughest.
“That two-mile was really hot. I really struggled the last mile with it, just sweating and dehydrating, but it felt good,” he said.
Nisbett benefited from the tutelage of Masters and Quaglia, both of whom are running at the Division I level. He and Masters still communicate frequently.
“Riley’s been giving me advice throughout the season,” Nisbett said. “Having Riley and Casey really helped me a lot. I learned a lot from them about racing and stuff.”
Nisbett will run the 4×8 and 3,200 at states, with great chances to score in both of those events.
In the 4×8, where the Rams are seeded sixth, three of the five teams ranked above them are only five seconds quicker.
Nisbett will also have some solid competition in the 3,200, where seeds 4-11 are 14 seconds apart.
“It’s crazy, there’s a lot of kids down there I don’t really get to see during the regular season,” he said. “It’s tough, but I like having some competition to see how well I can do. It helps me to push myself further.”
There are a few faces familiar to Nisbett in that field, such as Mt. Blue of Farmington’s Kelton Cullenberg, Cony of Augusta’s Luke Fontaine and Will Geoghegan of Brunswick.
Nisbett has been a jack-of-all-trades runner for coach Joe Quinn’s Rams.
“Sam’s done very well in the mile, 800, the 400, the 3,200, and occasionally we put him in the 4×4,” said Quinn. “He’s done very well this year, he works hard.”
One person Nisbett owes for his success is distance coach Jamie Cooke, who was recently named Bangor’s head indoor coach for next winter.
“She’s been coaching me for 6-7 years, I think she’s been helping me a lot,” Nisbett said.
Bangor’s other high hopes for points include Tyler Pembroke in the 100 and 200 dashes and Joey Quinn in the discus.
Brewer is led by junior hurdler Steven Rice, the PVC champion in the 110s and runner-up in the 300s.
Class B: Hampden Academy rode its top horses to a PVC title, and they’ll need them to come through again to have a shot at a top-five finish, or better, at the state meet.
The Broncos are led by Matt Toothaker in the hurdles, jumps and sprints, Jadrien Cousens in the hurdles, high, long and triple jumps, and Darik Frye in the distance events.
Class C: There appears to be no clear-cut team favorite here, with Sacopee Valley of Hiram, North Yarmouth Academy and Bucksport all challengers.
John Bapst’s Chris Fogler is favored in the 110 and 300 hurdles, and he’ll be pushed by Bucksport’s Dom Kone and Traip Academy of Kittery’s Nigel Ayer in the 200 dash. Fogler will also run on the Crusaders’ 4×400 relay.
Bucksport’s Kone is the top seed in the 200 dash as well as the long jump, while he’ll also seek gold in the 100, where he’s ranked second.