WATERVILLE — Sam Roy was sitting in history class when he found out. Jayde Whitten was on her way home from a meet, sworn to secrecy. Emily Eastman had just completed the single most outstanding cross country season in school history.

For track and field athletes at Nokomis Regional High School, this was their moment.

“It’s absolutely amazing,” Roy, a junior, said. “I was so excited. I was like, ‘Seriously?’ Now I don’t have to drive over to MCI anymore?”

This winter, for the first time in school history, Nokomis is fielding its own, standalone indoor track and field team. After spending the better part of a decade as part of what could only generously be described as a “co-op” with Maine Central Institute, the Warriors finally have a team of their own.

And it’s a pretty good team, too.

“We have a lot of high-end individually talented kids,” said Nokomis coach Chip Littlefield, who has been the school’s outdoor track and field coach since 2010. “I think they’re excited because they know that we can have a lot of success and it’s going to be very gratifying to be part of it.”

Last Friday, inside the Colby College field house, the Warriors participated alongside a number of other Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference schools in a meet that looked like many other during the season, as the winter builds toward conference, regional and state championship meets next month. The Warriors had athletes competing in 13 of the 14 scheduled events, a long jump — a triple jump, even — away from just 11 months ago when just seven Nokomis individuals competed alongside MCI athletes last winter.

The new team boasts 25 members, boys and girls, in this inaugural season. Many of those athletes began their track and field careers alongside Littlefield, who has worked with the area’s outdoor youth track and field program. Others were encouraged by their friends to come out for the team now that it was being housed at Nokomis.

A big part of the plan going forward hinges on the new school buildings being constructed in Newport, buildings that will include athletic facilities and is scheduled to open for the 2019-2020 school year. Once they have a weight room and more space for training, Littlefield thinks the Warriors’ numbers will really take off.

“We did a lot of recruiting during soccer season, and we got a lot of kids from basketball,” said senior captain Audrey Kimball, who feels validated now that Nokomis has its own team. “There are kids who knew that they wanted to do this, but had no idea we had a team. This is a lot nicer. It feels like we have a presence in the school now.”

Senior Logan Rowell is a lacrosse player and competes during the indoor track season as a means to stay in shape for spring. He was part of the contingent that went to MCI last winter.

The alternative — no indoor track at all — wasn’t an option for him.

“I had some friends I played lacrosse with at MCI, so it was good that I knew them and did that. Otherwise, I’d be on the couch not doing much of anything all winter,” Rowell said. “This keeps me involved with other people to help generate a track community.”

That sense of community, of being a team, is prevalent for the Warriors. Littlefield — who was a runner at Lawrence High School and later at the University of Southern Maine in the mid-1980s — said that the biggest surprise this winter has been thinking about meets in terms of scoring points, instead of simply encouraging kids to run, jump and throw. Individuals are allowed to compete in up to three events at each meet, and their results go toward overall team scores.

Now, Nokomis is placing kids where they can both succeed individually while also benefiting the team.

“It’s all about being a team for us now,” said Roy, a middle-distance runner who also is on a pair of relay teams. “There are no egos, nobody out here just doing their own thing. We’ve all started looking at how we could help the team. When I’m out there running, for me, it’s mostly about doing the best that I can for the team.

“That’s what’s going to make me a better runner, too.”

While track and field enjoys its own sense of community — with so much time spent mingling with athletes from other schools and disciplines during hours-long meets — there is a tighter bond among indoor competitors, junior Whitten said.

“We’re a small school, so we’re together a lot, anyway,” she said. “Having this now, it’s really a special thing for us.”

“For me, one of the things that puts indoor over outdoor (track) is the closeness,” said Kimball, an 800 runner. “Outdoor meets are more spread out. With indoor, you’re in here together and it feels like there’s more of a support system built in.”

It feels as though every Nokomis indoor track and field athlete boils the entire experience down to a single notion. They’re aware that they are leaders, building the foundation for a future of a program which previously enjoyed nothing more than a fragmented existence. They’re embracing their roles as pioneers of sorts.

“The bottom line is that we have great kids,” Littlefield said. “They’re the reason this is even happening.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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