There are not too many — if any — milestones more anticipated by a high school student than graduation.
“For the seniors,” Mount View science teacher and outdoor track coach Kevin Petrak said, “it sets in their mind as soon as they become seniors.”
A momentous occasion to say the least, but for some area high schoolers walking across the stage and flipping the tassels on their caps does not come without some sacrifice.
Mt. View, Gardiner Area, Hall-Dale, Mt. Blue and Richmond High Schools all have their graduations slated for Saturday, the same day as the Class A, B and C Outdoor Track Championships.
The overlap forced two Mustangs, Madeline Blake and Braley Leadbetter, to make a decision: attend graduation at 1 p.m. or the Class B meet in Brewer at the same time.
“My seniors have just told me that they are going to not participate in the state track meet because they want to go through the graduation process,” said Petrak, who was not upset about their decision. “It’s a rite of passage.”
At Mt. Blue, 20 seniors were faced with a similar decision.
As a result to the large number of students due to graduate on the track team, the school offered an option of attending a ceremony Friday at 7 p.m. in place of Saturday’s graduation.
According to coach Kelley Cullenberg two students — distance runner Josh Horne and thrower Colin Richards — accepted the alternative, will graduate Friday and then compete at the Class A meet Saturday in Windham.
“Those kids that are going to be there as seniors are going to give it their 110 percent,” she said. “…I just hope that this doesn’t happen next year. It is what it is. We can be upset as long as we can be but in the end it’s not going to get us anywhere.”
The Cougars fielded a team of about 60 kids this season, but between seniors graduating, underclassmen attending graduation and others not qualifying for the meet Cullenberg expects to have about a dozen boys and one girl make the trip on Saturday.
While some have had to choose one or the other, Hall-Dale seniors Steven Hubert, Konnor and Steven Longfellow will get to both graduate and compete at the Class C meet at noon in Foxcroft.
The Bulldogs will have to leave the meet early, however, to make the 7 p.m. ceremony.
“We’re not going to get to do everything that they wanted to do,” Richmond coach Jarod Richmond said. “Fortunately most of our senior stuff happens in the first part of the meet.
“Ultimately they’re all going to get to go up and have that last one big meet experience. It’s going to be a busy day for them for certain.”
For Steven Longfellow, it promises to be a particularly eventful day.
After winning the Mountain Valley Conference title in the triple jump, he enters the Class C meet seeded second in the event. He will have enough time to compete in that — as well as the 4×100 relay with Hubert, his cousin Konnor and a fourth runner yet to be determined — then head to graduation, where as the class valedictorian he will be charged with delivering a speech to his fellow graduates.
The old saying goes that competition breeds success.
If anyone is proving that right, it’s the throwers from the Carrabec girls and Maine Central Institute boys outdoor track teams.
At the MVC championships Thursday the Cobras swept the throws, with Shen Black taking discus, Emma Pluntke winning shot and Macy Welch grabbing first in javelin.
“I think it pushes us to work harder because we don’t want them to beat us,” Pluntke said. “It’s a good motivation for us.”
“She’s come really close to me in discus,” added Black, “and then I freak out because I don’t want her to beat me. Then I try harder.”
Carrabec finished in third place with 60 points, 40 of which came from the trio of throwers.
MCI got a similar performance Saturday at the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B championships. Curtis McLeod and Eric Hathaway combined to score 39 points in the throws as the Huskies took fourth with 77.5 points.
“I think just repping it out in practice as much as we can until it just doesn’t work anymore and then move on to something else,” McLeod said of what has led to their success. “It’s just constant work on footwork and stuff like that is what gets it done.”
Injuries — and fighting through them — unfortunately come with the territory this time of year.
Coaches do their best to try and keep their athletes healthy for the championship meets, but most competitors are dealing with some sort of nagging injury by season’s end.
Waterville’s Troy Gurski battled through injury to a win in the 110 hurdles, second in the triple jump and seventh in the 400 at KVAC’s Saturday in Bath. If there was any positive new for Gurski and the Panthers, it was that Waterville had already clinched the Class B title by the time the 4×400 relay rolled around to allow Gurski to scratch from the race.
“He sort of gimped his way through several of his events,” Waterville coach Ian Wilson said. “We’ll hope we can get him healthy and 100 percent for next week but there was no point in trying to force him to go through something knowing what we have resting on the line next week.”
Messalonskee’s Amanda Knight and Cony’s Anne Guadalupi were each dealing with injuries of their own Saturday at KVAC’s but still managed to turn in some impressive performances.
Knight won the 200, 400 and placed fifth in the 100, while Guadalupi bounced back from a sixth in the 1,600 to take third in the 3,200.
Evan Crawley — 621-5640 | [email protected] | Twitter: @Evan_Crawley