DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — When Hannah Steelman entered Orono High School as a freshman, the Red Riots’ track and field dynasty was slowly starting to take shape.
Four years later, Steelman and her classmates exit the program having formed one of the more remarkable state-championship team runs seen in Maine track and field early in the 21st century.
Coach Chris Libby’s Red Riots put on yet another dominating performance at the Class C state championship, piling up 125.33 points, more than doubling up runner-up George Stevens Academy of Blue Hill (56) at Foxcroft Academy on Saturday to win its sixth consecutive state title.
“It’s pretty crazy, a four-year sweep, it’s definitely made high school very memorable,” said Steelman, who racked up two individual victories and was part of a winning 3,200-meter relay in helping pave the way for Orono’s decisive winning effort.
Finishing in third place in the girls’ field was Maranacook of Readfield with 48.5 points, while Caribou’s 40 was good for fourth and Monmouth Academy’s 39.5 rounding out the top five.
As was the case in the PVC championship meet just five days ago, Orono’s distance runners set the tone early, with Steelman, Kassidy Dill, Jenna Gaetjen and Becky Lopez-Anido teaming up to win the 4×800 relay in 10 minutes, 17.08 seconds.
Steelman would later go on to post two personal-bests in winning the 1,600 in 5:07.62 and the 3,200 in 11:09.91, lapping the field in the latter of the two events.
While the Wofford College-bound Steelman was thrilled with the PRs — as any distance runner would be late in the season — all she cared about were the 20 points the Riots generated from her two individual victories.
“State meet you want to come and do what you can for your team,” Steelman said. “That was the goal today, just score as many points as possible as an individual to go towards the team.”
While Steelman accomplished that in the long-distance events, sprinter Katherine O’Brien accounted for two individual wins (100 dash, 12.93 seconds and long jump, 16 feet, 8.50 inches) while echoing Steelman’s team-first mindset.
“It’s definitely team first and then individually after. The team is what really matters,” said O’Brien, who teamed up with Brinsley Chasse, Isabel Henderson and Camille Kohatla to win the 4×100 in 52.65.
Lopez-Anido, Kohtala and Kaeli Gaetjen subsequently finished 1-2-6 in the 400 and Dill and Lopez-Anido 2-3 in the 800 to give the Riots a comfortable cushion as the meet surpassed its halfway point.
The day was capped off by Kohtala, Isabel Henderson, Dill and Lopez-Anido enjoying a 1,600-meter victory lap in the 4×400, and that Riot quartet was timed in 4:11.34.
“We call it state-meet magic, people just realize how important it is and realize how much they want to do it for the team, the school and the community,” Steelman said.
Like any successful championship team, the Riots weren’t entirely focused on winning the meet, and they simply took things one event at a time.
“We were also just really focused on just having a good time and doing what we love together,” O’Brien said.
But Orono’s senior class now gets that rare distinction of being four-time state champions.
“As a captain I’m so proud and as a senior I’m even more proud,” Steelman said.
The Riots’ other individual champ was Lauren Melanson, who won the discus with a heave of 104-4 while she was also seventh in the shot put
While Orono was in control of the team competition, plenty of local individuals had great days.
Central of Corinth’s Maija Overturf stood atop the podium in the triple jump, jumping 32-9, while Christa Carr of MCI in Pittsfield claimed the shot put with a toss of 36-9.50.
GSA’s Morgan Dauk was the other local individual champ, claiming the javelin at 115-7.