The Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference indoor track and field championships are still a few weeks away, and it can’t come any sooner for Messalonskee.

“They are doing very well,” Lawrence coach Tim Alberts said. “They had some success last year in outdoor, and (the outdoor boys team) were finally able to take away the Community Cup from Waterville. I think that gave them that much more juice, that much more energy. Right now in indoor, in the meets they’ve been in they’ve been doing quite well. I think — both girls and boys — have a darn good shot of winning our conference.”

On the girls side, the Eagles certainly have no problem going the distance. In a Dec. 31 meet at Bowdoin College, the Eagles had runners place in two out of the top three spots in the 800-meter, the mile and the two mile.

“Our real strength comes from the 800, mile and two mile,” Messalonskee coach Matt Holman said. “I think if you look in respect to everybody else in KVAC A, we’re sitting pretty good.”

Senior Avery Brennan finished second in the 800 (2:32.04) at the Bowdoin meet, and Holman said she has been a true leader to the team this season, providing help that isn’t found on a stat sheet.

“Everything starts with Avery Brennan,” Holman said. “She’s our leader. She’s been an absolutely consistent runner her whole career. What you don’t see show up on the stats is how she leads the young girls. We have a lot of sophomores and freshmen on the girls side.”

The eye-catching runner on the boys side as of now would have to be senior Tanner Burton, who runs the 55-meter hurdles. At the Bowdoin meet, Burton ran a blistering time of 7.78 seconds, topping second place finisher Hassan Mohamed of Lewiston by well over a second.

“That’s one of the top times in Maine history,” Holman said. “I looked at my stopwatch a couple times…He’s been incredibly hard this year. We added the 200 for him, he’s usually a 4×200 (meter) runner for us, but with the lack of depth we’re trying to pick up as many points as we can. He’s running a really good 200. He’s a fast kid, we’re fortunate to have him.”

Holman has also been impressed with mid-distance runner Zach Hoyle, who may be ready for KVACs now, as he’s consistently finished first each time he’s competed in the mile. Cam Bickford leads the team in throws, as he finished first in the shot put at the Bowdoin meet with a throw of 40-09.00.

• • •

Lawrence coach Alberts enjoys a luxury many teams just don’t have: He has a plethora of athletes.

One of many standouts on the girls indoor team is senior Kiana Letourneau, who is a newcomer to indoor track this season. Letourneau has been consistently strong in the 200-meter dash and the 400, but she is trying her hand in a variety of events. Her best output this season may have come during a Dec. 30 meet at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, when she finished first in the 200 (27.59 seconds), first in the 400 (1:02.44) and second in the long jump (15-5.00), finishing just short of Edward Little’s Lauren Berube (15-5.75).

“Our girls are very competitive, the teams that are beating us right now are teams that are perennially good, either winning our conference or being the runner-ups in our conference the last number of years,” Alberts said. “We as a coaching staff have a philosophy of everyone getting better. If — in getting better — it gives you a place in a meet or place at states, then that’s just gravy; that’s awesome.”

Alberts is pleased with the progress of his female runners, starting with senior Jaden Gray, who is steadily improving her time in the mile. Gray broke six minutes during the Bulldogs’ meet Dec. 30, finishing in 5:55.75, good enough for third behind Jillian Anderson (5:48.82) of Edward Little and Sydney Mccarren (5:53.84) of Morse.

A nice addition to the squad has been former basketball player Olivia Patterson. Competing in her first meet on Dec. 30, Patterson provisionally qualified in the 200 (31.87 seconds) and the shot put (24-02.5).

“She’s behind (the rest of the team) based on practicing, but she’s an athlete,” Alberts said. “She has the willingness (to compete). I’m interested to see where she’s going to go.”

Alberts said he’s been pleasantly surprised by the progress of mid-distance runner Hannah Walsh, as well as Payton Goodwin, who qualified for states in the 400 with a time of 1:05.76 during the Dec. 30 meet, finishing fourth behind Letourneau, Mt. Ararat’s Katie Lynch and Brunswick’s Desiree Tanner.

The Lawrence boys team — like the girls — are routinely finishing second or third at team meets. According to Alberts, one of the most improved members of the team is sophomore shot putter Alex Higgins. Last year, Higgins primarily threw under 40 feet. In the first meet of the season on Dec. 21 at Colby College in Waterville, Higgins had a throw of 43-10.00.

“I don’t know where that came from,” Alberts said. “Obviously, in the offseason he put on some size as far as bulking up. He’s a football player, too, so that helps. His potential over the next couple of years is out of this world.”

Two other talented male athletes compete in the same event. Ben Copeland and Gunnar McAllister have finished either first or second in the pole vault in each of their three team meets so far this season, clearing 12 feet each time. It’s an especially impressive output for McAllister — a senior — who gave up track after eighth grade only to return to the sport this season.

“(Lawrence junior high coach) Rob Morison, he said to me ‘By the end of the season, Ben and Gunnar will be over 12 feet,” Alberts said. “Very first meet, both of them got 12 feet. We were just like, ‘whoa, what?’ Over three meets that’s 18 points between the two of them, that’s been a huge improvement.”

• • •

One of the best indoor track rivalries in the state may wind up coming from the same team.

Sarah Cox and Jennasea Hubbard are both members of the Waterville girls team. Cox and Hubbard compete in the same event — the shot put. And both have been among the top athletes at Waterville’s meets.

Cox has had an upper hand so far, finishing first at three meets. Her best effort came at Bowdoin College, when Cox had a throw of 33-05.00. The effort was a personal best, and is also the third-longest throw in Class B this season.

Hubbard has been no slouch, either. She finished second (30-08.5) behind Cox at a Dec. 21 meet at Colby College. At the following meet on Dec. 27, Hubbard finished third with a throw of 29-00.0. It’s a young in-house rivalry, one that may grow within the next two years.

Dave Dyer — 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: @Dave_Dyer

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