The Bates College men’s track and field team is already good. Coach Al Fereshetian looks at sophomore sprinter Isaiah Spofford and he sees one of the athletes who can make the Bobcats even better.

“Isaiah’s one of our up and coming, emerging leaders. There’s no question Isaiah is going to be a huge part of the future of our team,” Fereshetian said.

As a freshman last season, Spofford, a Waterville Senior High School graduate, placed fourth in the 100 meters at the New England Small College Athletic Conference outdoor championships, with a time of 10.98 seconds. This season, he’ll run the 60 and 200 meter sprints during the indoor season, and Fereshetian said Spofford will be worked into the 400 when the outdoor season begins.

“Ever since I was a sophomore in high school, people have told me I’ll ease into the 400. This year I think it’s going to happen,” Spofford, a history and music major, said.

Spofford and the Bobcats compete in their first indoor meet on Saturday at Tufts University.

This season, Spofford feels he’s benefiting from work put in with Calvin Hunter, Bates’s sprinting coach. Under Hunter’s tutelage, Spofford is seeing improvement in his starts.

“Last season, I was just running on what I learned in high school,” Spofford said. “My exceleration last year was poor. I can just feel my starts going faster. The race feels smoother.”

Spofford already has the Bates record in the 60 meter dash, 7.09 seconds. While Fereshetian points out that college went from the 55 meters to the 60 just a few years ago, Spofford’s 55 time would be 10th in Bates history. The point, Fereshetian said, is that Spofford is fast and getting faster.

“Our expectations are very high. Isaiah’s just an absolutely outstanding young man,” Fereshetian said. “He put in a fantastic fall of training.”

Fereshetian said he knew Spofford would be an immediate contributor to the Bates track and field team when he saw Spofford compete in the Class B state championship outdoor meet in 2011. Spofford won the 100 and 200 meters that day and his time of 11.08 seconds was the fastest 100 in the state, regardless of Class.

“He ran one of the best 100′s I’ve seen technically run,” Fereshetian said.

Fereshetian thinks Spofford’s best asset is his toughness. As an example, Fereshetian cited Spofford’s effort at the conference outdoor championship last spring. A hamstring injury nagged Spofford throughout the second half of the outdoor season, but at the NESCAC meet on April 28, Spofford still ran with the Bobcats 4×100 relay team and reached the finals of the 100.

“At NESCACs, he wasn’t full strength,” Fereshetian said. “That goes back to his toughness and determination.”

Added Spofford: “I tried to rehab this summer. It hasn’t bothered me this year.”

Fereshetian thinks Spofford’s skill set will enable him to become a strong 400 runner.

“He has a shot at NCAAs in the 400. He has the desire and the attitude. You have to be tough to run the 400 meters,” Fereshetian said.

Spofford is willing to make any move that helps the Bobcats repeat as conference champs.

“The goal is to help the team win championships. I’m a piece trying to fit into a puzzle,” Spofford said.

Fereshetian and Spofford haven’t discussed any specific goals for the upcoming indoor season, but both expect Spofford to improve his times. Spofford said in the 200, he’d like to run 22 seconds flat. In the 60, breaking the seven second barrier is the goal.

“He could go well under seven (seconds) in the 60,” Fereshetian said. “That would be competitive in the region.”

“Last year was pretty good. It was definitely a growing year, coming into a new program,” Spofford said. “I want to better my times, do better at regional meets.”

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

tlazarczyk@centralmaine.com