Zac Lee bounced up and down, then up and down again. He swung his legs out and took a swipe at the warm air that engulfed McMann Field in Bath, site of the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B championship meet Monday.

The Erskine senior was preparing to run what he hoped was the fastest 110-meter hurdles race he’d ever done.

He wasn’t quite ready.

“I’m always jumping around because I can’t let it cool down,” said Lee. “If it gets loosened up, I can take care of it. I can manage it. I’m stepping pretty lightly, literally and figuratively.”

“It” is the left Achilles tendon, which threatened to hamper a season Lee anticipated for months.

Lee, who will head to the University of Southern Maine in the fall, first noticed some pain in his left Achilles prior the into indoor track and field season. He thought nothing of it at the time.

“I noticed a little pain but I figured I was just out of shape,” Lee said. “I thought it would subside. It was a weird feeling because I would run a race (during indoor season) and it would be fine. I’d feel good but then later that night it would be bother me. It became pretty painful. It was upsetting because I wanted to attack my senior year. I wanted to go all out.”

Instead, it became a year of stretching and icing and hoping.

“He worked really hard,” Erskine coach Dave Hickey said. “He’s handled the adversity with his Achilles. He’s really had it all year. We kept him out of the majority of the (indoor) season.”

Lee, who finished second in the 110 hurdles at the outdoor KVAC B meet his junior year, wanted redemption this year. He wanted, above all else, to stand at the top of the awards podium to accept the first-place ribbon in his signature event.

To get there, he knew it was going to take some work — some of it tedious.

“I’ve had to change how I’ve done everything,” Lee said. “I’ve had to change how I warm up and how long I warm up. I used to not take warming up too seriously, but I do now. I have to. I have to spend a good 15 to 20 minutes before my event stretching and warming up. I jump around and stretch it out as best I can.

“At the beginning of the year it was very frustrating. But I couldn’t think like I was just dealing with it. I had to address it, and I think I did.”

Back at McMann Field, Lee is finally ready to go. He settled into his blocks and stared face-down at the track.

A race official instructed the eight hurdlers to get ready and then raised the starting gun in the air.

Boom.

Lee surged out of the blocks and began to chase down the frontrunners. Twenty-five meters in and Lee had the leaders in his sights. By the 50-meter mark he had closed in on the lead. Lee then passed a pair of Waterville hurdlers, Troy Gurski and Jordhan Levine, and darted to the finish line.

He checked the scoreboard as he walked back to the line.

“It felt fast,” he said. “I wanted a (personal record). I thought I had one at Cony the week before, but I didn’t get it. I felt like I got one here.”

He did.

Lee finished in 15.46 seconds. It was the fifth fastest time in the state at any of the conference championship meets. It also was the fastest any Erskine runner ran the 110 hurdles — ever.

“He succeeds under pressure,” Hickey said. “He’s the most level-headed athlete I’ve ever coached. He makes everyone around him better, too. Our school records are pretty healthy in outdoor. People don’t break those every day.”

The Achilles held up after the race.

“Pretty unbelievable,” Lee said. “It’s just exhilarating. I had a (personal record) by three-one hundredths of a second. That’s pretty big. I knew I was going fast, but it surprised me. It’s exciting.”

Lee will shift his attention to the Class B state meet Saturday at McMann Field. He is seeded second behind Tom Reid of York.

“I don’t have many goals for states,” Lee said. “I’m just glad I’m feeling good. It’s been a long year. As long as I can walk off the track Saturday and know that I did the best I could, I’ll be happy.”

Added Hickey: “He’s a natural. He’s just mature beyond his years. He’s worked hard and is very poised.”

Bill Stewart — 621-5640

[email protected]

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