Ted Brown calls it Sarah Cox’s “game face.” The Waterville Senior High School indoor track and field coach sees it from his standout shot putter whenever she has a meet that falls short of her lofty standards.

And when those occasions arise, he knows what to do.

“People see it, and people give her a wide berth. Coaches included,” Brown said. “We know that she needs her space and not to mess with her, because she’s on a mission. You can see it in her eyes.”

There haven’t been many such meets this season. Already a Class B outdoor champion in the shot put, Cox has taken it a step further this winter, rising to become the state’s highest-ranked shot put thrower across all classes. The junior has Maine’s second-best thrower, Lewiston’s Laila Bunnitt, beat by more than two feet, and is a near-lock to head to the New Englands after the conference and state meets are finished.

“I’ve been more dedicated to the sport lately than I have ever been, and it’s just helped me get better and better myself,” Cox said. “It’s just a never-ending roller coaster of motivation and working as hard as you can.”

Even as Cox brought shot put and discus titles to Waterville last spring, Brown said he saw some room for improvement. He soon saw that Cox had seen it as well.

“She had an intense preseason,” he said. “I saw her several times after school. I happened to be around with the cross-country kids, and there’s Sarah, coming out of a workout.

“She could be the hardest-working kid on our team. … She always brings 100 percent to practice.”

It’s been a quick rise for Cox, who was introduced both to the sport and the event by her brother Tom, a former Waterville track and field and football standout, in sixth grade and was a state champion by her sophomore year. She wanted more, however, and began to put much of her free time into the pursuit.

“If there’s no practice, I’ll definitely go (to the gym). If there’s time that I have and I need stuff to be done, I’ll do that,” said Cox, who works closely with current Waterville throwing coach Joel Dyer and former coach Matt Gilley. “I do a lot conditioning and lifting, just trying to better my fitness and better my ability.”

She’s already got the state’s top ranking. Now she is chasing a number.

“I’ve been wanting to get to 40 feet since the beginning of the season,” said Cox, who reached 38-7.25 at the spring state meet. “I still haven’t hit that, but I’m fairly close.”

She had a breakthrough in early January at the Dartmouth Relays. At an event featuring athletes from across New England, Cox set her personal mark with a throw of 38-8.75, finishing third overall.

“I had a lot of different support and a lot of different coaching at Dartmouth. My brother was there and my friends who helped me a lot as well,” she said. “I was in a moment at Dartmouth, and it broke through. … That’s been the key meet this year.”

Brown said that meet has sparked Cox, who broke her previous winter best of 36 -0.25 and has passed that mark again since, but that his junior standout isn’t resting on the accomplishment.

“She’s never satisfied. She throws 38 feet, (8.75) inches, and she’s mad because she doesn’t throw 40,” he said. “I’m not a bit surprised that she’s working as hard as she is. I think she left spring track hungry. She definitely left indoor track hungry.”

There’s no time to be satisfied. The 40-foot milestone is still out there. So Brown expects to see the game face some more.

“It’s almost intimidating, just to see the intensity on her face after she’s had a down week. But she’s also very intense, maybe a little more relaxed, when she’s had a good week,” he said. “She doesn’t skimp on the intensity at all, and she’s an excellent leader for our team.”

As for the pressure of being No. 1? Cox acknowledged that it’s there.

“You definitely have a lot more to lose, and if you lose it, it puts even more pressure on,” she said. “It’s been a pretty good feeling, but there’s always that person that could be right behind you.”

As for how to combat it, Cox said she’s leaning on a tried and true method.

“Just practice, practice and practice,” she said. “You can’t get anywhere if you don’t put the effort into it.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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