A spring track season that ended in gold medals and personal records began with great uncertainty for Owen Concaugh.

The Messalonskee junior expected to have similar success to last fall as one of the top cross country runners in the state. But persistent lower back and hamstring ailments sidelined him for the season and for half of the subsequent indoor track campaign.

By the time the spring season arrived, his health wasn’t so much of an obstacle as his confidence. Once he found his stride in that department, he was ready to take his running and the Eagles to another level, winning state titles in the 800 and 4×800 and leading Messalonskee to a Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference championship.

For his efforts, Owen Concaugh is the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel Boys Outdoor Track and Field Athlete of the Year.

Along with learning to trust his body again, Concaugh had to work on building a level of trust with Messalonskee’s new coaching staff. Fortunately, he had the indoor season to start getting to know Matt and Vanessa Holman.

The coaches saw the dilligence with which he approached his rehab, then the intelligence and competitive fire with which he ran. To unlock the last element — speed — they needed to remove all doubts about whether he was physically ready.

“It took a lot of working through mentally. Once he got it that he was healthy and safe, he was able to open it up in practice,” Matt Holman said. “Each week, we stepped up the workload in practice and each week, he stepped up with it. You could see his intervals dropping and dropping and you could see his confidence going up.”

To help the process along, the coaching staff would sometimes tweak their lineups at meets to give Concaugh more competition. Senior Zach Hoyle, an outstanding distance runner himself and a member of the defending state champion 4×800 team with Concaugh, was often the rabbit.

Training with Hoyle and the other half of the relay team, Carson Bessey and Dan Turner, as training partners brought out his best, Concaugh said.

“I’d be nowhere near as good as I am right now without Zach, Carson and Dan to push me in practice,” he said.

Two quad meets in May, one at Lawrence in which he broke two minutes in the 800 for the first time, and one at Winslow in which he won the 800 and mile, sent his confidence surging.

“I had a lot of confidence in the training the coaches put me through,” Concaugh said. “I felt like I was in really good shape and would do whatever I could to help the team.”

On the hottest day of the season, the Eagles coasted to the conference title, helped by Concaugh’s victory in the 800 and second place in the mile.

A week later at the Class A state meet, Concaugh and his 4×800 teammates felt the heat immediately in the day’s first event.

In 2015, they virtually came out of nowhere to win the event. Knowing that they were the ones with the targets on their backs this year, all four Eagles ran their PR in their leg and finished with the second fastest time in state history, 7:58.40, to retain the title.

“My absolute favorite moment was definitely winning the 4×800 at states,” Concaugh said. “We all came in more determined to win and our coaches did a really, really good job making us peak for the meet. We were extremely, extremely excited about that.”

Concaugh wasn’t sure he had enough left in the tank to challenge in the 800 final later in the day. But he stayed on Hoyle’s heels early in the race before deciding to make his move around the halfway point and ultimately held off Scarborough’s Andrew Sholl to win in 1:58.36.

“I was pretty tired, so I was kind of surprised I won,” he said.

A fourth-place finish in the mile — just .01 seconds out of third — also helped Messalonskee place fourth in the state, the best finish among A North teams.

A week later, he ran a personal-best 1:54.85 in the 800 to finish 10th overall and tops among Mainers at the New England championships. Once again, he anchored the 4×800 relay to another PR, as it lopped nearly three seconds off its state time to finish in 7:55.55, by far the best among Maine teams and ninth overall.

Concaugh said he’d like to return to cross country in the fall of his senior year, but that will ultimately come down to how his body feels, as track and field is his top priority.

Holman believes that with good health, Concaugh could be one of the best runners to come out of the state.

“He’s an extremely intelligent and competitive runner,” Holman said. “After each race, he would meet with Vanessa and I and every race there was something we could have done a little bit different and a little bit better. He always knew there was a little bit left on the table.”

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @RAWmaterial33

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