SKOWHEGAN — Ten hurdles and 110 meters in 17.26 seconds.

There are plenty of events in outdoor track that allow a competitor the luxury of time to think.

Time to draft an opponent before making a move on the final lap or time to get one’s grip on the javelin just right before hurling it forward.

The 110 hurdles is not one of those events.

“You just have to go in there and do it. Every situation is going to be different. There’s going to be different variables and you have to treat them the same,” said Skowhegan senior Jacob Coombs, who won the 110 hurdles with a time of 17.26 Saturday at the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A championships. “You just have to be able to react and get to it.

“You have to be trained to be focused, and no matter what they train you there will be no comparison to the situation. They’ll train you to do anything, but once that happens there’s nothing like it. You’re focused, you know what you have to do, you’re not going to be thinking about it. You’re just going to do it.”

Certainly sound advice for conquering such a challenging event.

Only Coombs, a captain on the outdoor track team, is not talking about the hurdles; he’s talking about being an EMT.

“I am EMT certified within the state, so in order for me to do that last year they started a program down at our technical center,” he explains. “It’s just the same as the (Kennebec Valley Community College) course, just run through the high school. I was able to do that and by the end of the year I was able to take my practical exam and able to get my Maine state certification.”

While the gravity of the two scenarios are obviously quite different, there are plenty of similarities between responding to an emergency and the hurdles. Both are situations that hinge just as much on instinct and proper training as the actual action itself.

When asked why he wanted to get his EMT certification, Coombs hesitates for a moment — a rare occurrence given his training — and then answers.

“I just love helping people,” he said, “and I was always interested in the medical field.”

Often times people say they like helping people because it’s the right thing to say, tossing around hollow promises like loose change.

According to Skowhegan outdoor track coach Dave Evans, Coombs is not the type to say one thing and do or mean another.

“Jake’s the real deal,” Evans said. “He really cares about people.”

The mettle of Coombs’ character is something Evans has known for quite some time. At Skowhegan, being the captain of the track team is not an inherited right that comes with the territory of being an upperclassman.

“I have a different philosophy on leadership. You have leaders and you have followers,” Evans said. “I tell kids if you want to lead you step to the front and you lead. Those kids that want to take leadership roles I give them a chance to do so and I let them lead until they prove me wrong.

“…When Jake first showed up here as a freshman he was one of the most dedicated kids to our sport. What is great about Jake is even when he was a freshman he was one of our captains.”

Behind Coombs and teammates like seniors Spencer Lynds and Anthony Paul the Indians have enjoyed a resurgence in numbers over the past few seasons.

Evans said when he began coaching at Skowhegan four years ago the combined numbers for the boys and girls outdoor teams were in the high 20s, and this year the Indians finished with 53 on the roster.

“Jake and Spencer and Anthony have been great ambassadors of that sport here in our school, always talking to the younger kids about getting out,” Evans said. “We’ve also had some long-term middle school coaches who have really done a great job of getting kids out. The past two years we’ve had 82 kids at the middle school level.”

Evans also said that some of his upperclassmen have done a good job helping the underclassmen progress in addition to their own training.

“Jake has always been one of those guys,” Evans said. “He really enjoys working with the younger kids.”

It should come as no surprise that when Coombs graduates he intends to start down a path toward helping people for a living.

He said he wants to become an athletic trainer, although he’s keeping his options open.

“I have had a few career options pass my mind like respiratory therapy and physical trainer,” Coombs said. “Things like that.”

Coombs intends to start his collegiate career at KVCC in Fairfield before moving on to the University of Maine at Orono. During that time he wants to work as an EMT on an ambulance, although he said he still needs to get his national certification in order to do so.

For now though, the focus is on putting the finishing touches on a fantastic track career at Skowhegan.

Coombs and his Indian teammates will take part in the Class C championships Saturday beginning at 10 a.m. at Windham High School.

Evan Crawley — 621-5640 |

[email protected] |

Twitter: @Evan_Crawley

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