Most high school winter sports are in a groove of regular game schedules. Indoor track is significantly different this winter. In what has become a common problem with schools in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference, Lawrence has had one meet so far — and the last regular season meet for the Bulldogs is Jan. 18.
For athletes at KVAC schools who haven’t qualified for the KVAC meet, their competitive season ends in mid-January. Local coaches say it’s an issue of only so many facilities in the area that can host an indoor meet.
“Normally our schedule is better than that,” Lawrence coach Tim Alberts said. “We always have a bye week in January — the second or third week — and we’re going to be done by then.”
Fortunately for the Bulldogs, they had several athletes qualify for at least the KVACs in their meet Dec. 7 at Colby College, including Alexis Chamberlain (400, long jump), Briannah Bickford (hurdles, long jump), Crystal Crowell (shot put), Jordyn Poulin (shot put), and Sierra Thibodeau (hurdles). Marissa Paquette, who was slowed by a back injury during indoor season last winter, provisionally qualified in the 800, and Thibodeau tied a school record with a pole vault of 7 feet, 6 inches.
“She could possibly go over 8, and that would be very helpful to us,” Alberts said.
With Poulin, Crowell, Thibodeau, and Sydney Emery, Lawrence is deep in the shot put. Alberts thinks Poulin has a chance to win the KVACs based on her practice throws, and he adds that Crowell could finished in the top three or four at KVACs.
For Chamberlain, that meet on Dec. 7 was the first indoor meet of her high school career. She plays field hockey in the fall, and last winter played regular minutes on the successful Lawrence girls basketball team before starring as an outdoor track athlete in the spring.
“Once outdoor track came around, she just flourished, becoming the school’s all-time record holder in the long and the triple jump,” Alberts said. “When she got done, I was convinced that she would come out for indoor track.”
At Colby, Chamberlain finished second in both the long jump and the 400-meter dash.
“We’re just looking for good things from her,” Alberts said. “Based on what we’ve seen, she’ll be one of our top scorers, meet in and meet out.”
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One of the best individual performances in that Dec. 7 meet at Colby was by Jade Canak of Erskine. Canak competed in the 55 hurdles, the long jump, and the triple jump, and won all three events.
Canak is a captain for Erskine this season, and coach Dave Hickey said she’s drawn interest from Division I universities.
“She’s really excelling as a leader,” Hickey said. “You spend a lot of time as a coach having your better athletes demo things. It’s really nice when they have excellent form.”
The Eagles have a meet at Bowdoin on Friday, and the University of Southern Maine relays on Saturday. Hickey is looking for good showings from Canak and Courtney Eliot on the girls side. He said the boys have “a slew of all-around athletes,” led by Erik Dodge and also featuring Gage Curry and newcomers Alex Peddie and Phoenix Throckmorton. If the name Peddie rings a bell, it’s because Alex’s uncle is Colin Peddie, a track standout at Hall-Dale in the late 1970s and early 80s.
Like other teams, Erskine is battling the short season. The Eagles have their last meet on Jan. 10, and the KVAC championships are Feb. 8.
“It’s almost like two seasons this year,” Hickey said.
Hickey also realizes it can be tough for a high school athlete to look out the window and see snow and ice and then get motivated for a track practice. So he’s borrowed some ideas from other coaches to break up the monotony.
“One day we actually went sledding, and ran up the hill for the workout,” Hickey said. “They definitely liked it. We do a lot of different stuff to keep it fun.”
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If one meet so far sounds bad, how about zero meets? That’s how many Cony has had this season. (The first day of practice was Nov. 18, by the way.)
Cony has its first meet Friday at Bowdoin. The Rams also have meets On Dec. 30 and Jan. 3.
“Within seven days, we have three meets,” Cony coach Peter Marsh said. “I really wanted to attend the USM relays, but those are on the 28th, and that would have given us four meets in seven days.”
One good thing about all that practice time is that Cony often has the services of Bethany Dumas, a former Cony and USM standout who volunteers as an assistant coach with the Rams.
“She is an incredible athlete, a great coach,” Marsh said. “She’s talked about going to grad school, which I’m disappointed about. The more she’s around, the more she works with the kids, the better for the kids. I really enjoy having her around to help.”
To keep everyone loose, some of those practices have been unusual.
“I try to be as creative as I can,” Marsh said. “Some practices, we might play dodge ball. There’s been days we set up obstacle courses and had teams. Sometimes being an educator helps with creativity, especially being in elementary school myself.”