WATERVILLE — How do you deal with adversity?

It is a defining question that often separates the very good from the great.

Midway through the outdoor track season Sarah Shoulta, a junior at Waterville High School, could have shut it down and called it a season. That, however, is not how she is wired.

“I’m very competitive. I want to be the best one,” she said. “I strive to be the best.”

She certainly proved that during the championship season. After missing a number of meets during the regular season, she returned for the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference B championships. There she won the 100 hurdles and pole vault, and took second in the 300 hurdles and long jump.

She followed it up with an even better performance the following week at the Class B championships, taking gold in the pole vault, 100 and 300 hurdles — as well as a fourth as a member of the Panthers’ 4×400 relay as well. The 30 points she earned in individual events provided the distance Waterville needed to hold off Greely for its eighth straight Class B title.

For her excellence on the track and ability to overcome adversity Sarah Shoulta has been named the Morning Sentinel Girls Outdoor Track Athlete of the Year. Messalonskee’s Amanda Knight also received consideration.

“The thing about Sarah that always impresses me is her competitiveness,” Waterville coach Ian Wilson said. “…Sometimes you believe the stereotype that star athletes are tough to handle. Sarah’s not like that. She’s one of the sweetest kids you’ll ever meet, but when it’s go time she’s really tough.”

Tough does not even begin to describe the grit Shoulta showed this season.

During the spring she was diagnosed with Sacroiliac (SI) Joint Dysfunction, a condition that causes pain in the joint where the sacrum and iliac bones meet.

“It’s a hip problem,” Shoulta explained. “Basically my hip is stuck in a position where it’s not able to have full mobility.

“It’s something that I can work with and fix but I’ve taken a whole month off this summer to try and fix this.”

Shoulta is resting, going to physical therapy and the chiropractor to treat the injury now, but during the season there was no way she was going to miss the opportunity to help her team win another state title.

“I was told I was allowed to compete at KVACs and states,” Shoulta recalled after getting diagnosed a couple weeks into the season. “That was really hard on me but I knew I was going to get a chance.”

If there are any events where having a full range of motion in your hips would be helpful it would certainly be the hurdles and pole vault, yet Shoulta’s competitiveness outweighed the pain.

There was no greater example than in the 300 hurdles at the Class B meet in which she was seeded third.

“I was in lane three and the two people seeded ahead of me were in four and five and I could see them (off the start),” Shoulta said. “That helped me beat them to the first hurdle. It’s more of a mental strategy.”

Shoulta won the event by nearly six-tenths of a second ahead of Camden Hills’ Melissa Kessel — who had beaten Shoulta just a week prior at KVACs. The result was of little surprise to Wilson.

“I knew she was going to win the 300 hurdles when I found out what her lane assignment was,” he said. “When I found out she’d be able to see the two kids in front of her there really wasn’t a lot of doubt in my mind.”

It was not just competition from opposing teams that drove Shoulta this season though, as a number of her teammates kept her sharp as well.

Classmate Kellie Bolduc competed in nearly all the same events as Shoulta and — more often than not — was her greatest competition.

“It’s a friendly competition but she pushes me to be the best,” Shoulta said. “She’s the second best (100 hurdler) in (Class B). We’re right there together. I like being able to train with her.”

Bolduc was not the only hurdler to help Shoulta out this season, as she also said that seniors Jordhan Levine and Troy Gurski — the 2014 Class B champ and runner up, respectively, in the boys 110 hurdles — played a big part in her success as well.

“They give little helpful hints that improved my races,” she said, “and I wouldn’t be anywhere without all three of them.”

Evan Crawley — 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: Evan_Crawley

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