RICHMOND — It runs in tennis courts and parking lots.
It runs at the track of a neighboring school and just about anywhere it can.
It is the Richmond High School outdoor track team.
For most high schools in Maine this is nothing out of the ordinary, as not everyone has the facilities available to hold full-fledge practices.
At Richmond, the Bobcats are making a different kind of adjustment — officially adding a team.
For the past few years students from Richmond have been competing in boys and girls outdoor track as individuals — more or less adopted members at nearby Hall-Dale. That is, until now.
To the best of first-year coach Dave Gagne’s knowledge, this will be the first year Richmond has ever had outdoor track teams and so far things have gone as well as can be expected.
“We’ve had a pretty successful start so far,” Gagne said of his team of seven boys and 12 girls.
Gagne, who is in his second year as a social studies teacher at the high school, brings five years of experience as an assistant at North Yarmouth Academy to Richmond. Over the past year it became apparent to him that there was enough interest at Richmond to field a team.
“In helping out the kids in a few meets I knew there was enough interest and I knew Richmond had a enough athletes,” Gagne said. “I knew we could get roughly 20 and we’ve settled in at 19.”
Interest and actually fielding a team are two very different things though, so last year Gagne and a few students began doing the legwork necessary to start a team at the school.
“It was a lot of hard work convincing other people to join the team, because coming from last year we were at Hall-Dale and we were practicing there,” junior Charity Winokurzew said. “It was a really fun experience being a part of a huge team and actually learning how to do track.”
In addition to recruiting athletes at the small school — which has an enrollment of less than 150 students according to the Maine Principals’ Association website — Gagne said they also had to get the administration and superintendent involved, as well as sort out getting some funds set aside in the budget for the program.
Had it not been for some help from the surrounding community though, the Bobcats’ track team would likely still not exist.
“I’ve had great support from a whole host of schools and coaches,” Gagne said, “with donated equipment, used equipment, advice and getting us into some track meets.”
Schools such as North Yarmouth, Falmouth and Erskine Academies, as well as South Portland High School and Colby College chipped in with equipment to get the program started.
“I’ve collected javelins, a bunch of shot puts, some starting blocks, a few miscellaneous bags, some starters,” Gagne said. “The kind of enough stuff to get us started so when we’re practicing at Richmond we can still go in the field and do some work.”
The biggest supporter according to Gagne has been Hall-Dale though. In addition to donating various equipment, the Bobcats are also allowed to practice on the school’s track twice per week. Even assistant coach Walter McKee — owner of McKee Billings in Augusta — donated 500 dollars to the Richmond track team.
For Hall-Dale track coach Jarod Richmond, it was a bit of a no-brainer to help the neighboring school get started.
“It’s one of those community things about track,” Richmond said. “Teams are always willing to help out and you don’t see that in a lot of the other sports.”
Richmond believes that camaraderie in track between teams stems from the nature of the sport itself — striving to do the best one can in individual competitions for the betterment of the team.
“There’s a very communal aspect to it because how you do in your event is going to help the team,” Richmond said. “I think in other sports you have upper level players and there’s always a battle for playing time.
“(In track) sure you’re throwing against another kid but you’re also doing that against yourself. No one is scheming around you specifically and at the end of the day it’s you versus you.”
According to Winokurzew, there will still be that sense of togetherness between Hall-Dale and Richmond — even when they face off against each other for the first time on Tuesday, May 13.
“I’m kind of like, âthey’re my family,'” she said, “but it’s going to be a good meet.”
So far, the Bobcats have had two meets this season; one at Hyde and another at Cheverus. They will have another meet today when they travel to Wiscasset to take on Boothbay, Lisbon and the Wolverines at 3:30 p.m.
Regardless of how the results play out for the Bobcats this season, their story will be one of success.
Skylar Mayers, Edoardo Valenti, Travis Robbins, Caleb McArthur, Jacob Densmore and Ben Rideout comprise the boys outdoor track team. Haley Murphy, Megan Barto, Brittany and Kayla Beaulieu, Nicole Blake, Brittany Davidson, Julie Plummer, Taylor Houdlette, Emily Rogers, Charity and Elsie Winokurzew comprise girls team.
And if there is anyone who knows how important the charity of others is, it’s Charity Winokurzew.
“This wouldn’t be possible without (their) help,” she said. “…Thanks to all the people who helped us get this started.”
Evan Crawley——621-5640 [email protected] Twitter: @Evan_Crawley