Maddy Price admits she usually has a low tolerance for pain.

So when a pulled hamstring — which felt like a more-concerning knee injury because it was so close to the joint — prevented her from practicing in the week leading up to the Class A state track and field championships, the Skowhegan senior wondered whether her high school track career would go out with a whimper or a bang.

“At practice, I tried to do starts and that didn’t go so well. I tried to run in general and that didn’t go so well,” she said.

Things went much better when it came down to crunch time, though, thanks in large part to her determination to go out on top.

For her efforts, Maddy Price is the Morning Sentinel Outdoor Track and Field Girls Athlete of the Year.

As state championship week progressed, Price considered pulling out of the meet. But with some encouraging words from head coach Dave Evans and jumping coach Matt Friedman, she prepared herself to deal with whatever lingering pain she felt at the Saturday meet.

“I had to get over it and just suck it up for the meet because it was going to be my last high school meet,” she said.

Fortunately, the injury improved substantially as the meet drew closer. She first tested it in the state 100-meter dash semifinal prelims and turned in the sixth-best qualifying time. She then finished third in the finals.

During the triple jump final, Price sensed that she hadn’t completely put the injury out of her mind. Her first two jumps seemed to reflect that.

“Early in the state meet, I was only jumping 33 feet. The knee was fine, but something wasn’t right,” said Price, who had been jumping between 35 and 36 feet all season. “I didn’t want to give up, so I decided to move back to the 36-foot board to push my mind and body.”

“She came up to Coach Friedman and said ‘I’m going to go off the 36-foot board,'” Evans said. “He said ‘Maddy, you haven’t done 36 yet today, and your knee.’ She looked at him and said ‘I’m going off the 36-foot board.'”

“It just shows you the growth Maddy has made,” he added. “Her sophomore year, we were at states and she had been jumping pretty well that day, but we had to convince her to go off the 32-foot board and she would go further.”

On her final jump in her final event of high school track, Price landed at 37-feet, 3.5 inches, a personal best and nearly a full foot ahead of the runner-up, Adela Kalilwa of Lewiston.

“You talk about a courageous effort,” Evans said. “Here’s a girl who hadn’t practiced all week or jumped 36 feet that day and yet she has confidence enough in herself to do that.”

Price’s talent was apparent her freshman year. She made the podium in the 200 after finishing seventh, but failed to qualify for the finals in the 100. She remembers looking at the winner in both events, Brewer’s Teal Jackson, and questioning whether she could ever achieve that level of success. Evans, too, wondered whether she had the work ethic to reach her potential.

The turning point came between her freshman and sophomore years. She trained harder and improved her mental focus in practice and competition.

The results were undeniable. She won the state 100 title and finished fourth in the triple jump that year.

“Track has shown me that you can’t just get by if you want to succeed,” she said. “You have to put in the work. It’s not just handed to you.”

Teammates such as Jaycee Cushman her first two years and Leah Savage the last two, both elite competitors in their own right, helped reinforce that lesson.

“At Waterville Relays, me and our other two jumpers, Leah and Chloe (Thorndike) realized we could beat the meet record, so when we went out and did that, we were really excited,” she said.

“It’s been great (having teammates push her). And it’s not only been my teammates but also Adela has always been there. She’s a great friend and we’ve had a friendly rivalry going,” she said.

With a career at Skowhegan that featured two outdoor and two indoor state titles and a half-dozen school records, Price received a 50 percent athletic scholarship to attend Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey. She hopes to compete in both indoor and outdoor track.

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @RAWmaterial33