WINSLOW — With the track and surrounding jumping and throwing areas still under four or five inches of snow, the Winslow High School track and field team spent Monday’s first practice of the season running in the school hallways. The boys did so as no Black Raider outdoor track and field team in more than half a century, as defending state champions.

“It’s just brought a different energy, a more exciting energy, to the team. Everyone is pumped up. We lost a lot of great runners, but I think we’ve got some great up-and-coming guys,” said senior Jake Warn, who attended practice but was unable to take part as he recovered from off season ankle surgery. “We’re going to work hard and see where the season takes us.”

Monday was the first day for Maine high school spring sports teams to practice. Track and field, baseball, softball, lacrosse and tennis began team workouts. Last year, the Winslow boys track and field team won its first state title since 1966. With more teams competing in Class B this season, the Black Raiders know a repeat will be difficult, at both the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference and state meets.

“We’re just going to go out and do the best we can do,” senior Allister Piccini said. “There’s more better runners. They’ll be more competition. Especially for KVACs, too.”

With enrollment shrinking at many schools, a few longtime Class A programs will compete in Class B this season. Mt. Blue, Cony and Brewer are former Class A schools now in Class B, which includes schools with enrollment between 445 and 674 students. The KVAC A division now includes just seven schools. Maine Central Institute, which competes against Class B schools in the KVAC at the conference meet, moves up from Class C for state competition this year.

“Class B is just huge. Class A is empty. It will be interesting to see how it pans out,” Winslow track and field coach Ken Nadeau said. “I like to compete against those Class A’s. Messalonskee is a good marker to see how well we’re competing. If we’re doing well against those Class A schools, I’m hopeful.”

The Black Raiders lost 51 of the 98 points scored to win the Class B state meet to graduation, including Ben Smith, who won the 100 and 200 meter sprints, and took second in the 400. Winslow does have plenty of talent back, including Piccini in the distance events, Max Spaulding in sprints and hurdles, Ben Dorval in the high jump, and Warn, who won the state triple jump title last season and placed second to Smith in the 100 and 200. Warn spent the winter in a walking boot after surgery to repair a stress fracture in his right ankle following soccer season. Warn expects he’ll be able to compete in approximately four weeks, plenty of time to get ready for the big meets at the end of the season.

“I’m not going to push (Warn). The amazing thing is he jumped last year injured, got those seconds in the 100 and 200 injured. I’m in no rush,” Nadeau said. “I’m going to let him take his time to get there. Eight weeks is a long season.”

Monday was just a starting point, and Nadeau said it’s too early to think of repeating as state champion. Along with the new teams in Class B, there’s Greely, which won the indoor title, and Mt. Desert Island, which finished a mere three points behind Winslow at the state meet last spring.

“We had some talent last year. You’re always looking for the next best thing. State titles are hard to come by. We focus on one meet at a time. There’s lots of schools I think can be really competitive. MDI is the real deal. It’s going for us to be more about growing as a team,” Nadeau said. “I always look for the next person to step up. We have really good kids. I think that’s helpful. Success hopefully breeds success.”

Added Warn: “I think Winslow’s always been known as the underdog, and that’s where we make our mark. I think we’re going to make something happen this year.”

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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