BRUNSWICK — Basketball wasn’t working for Payton Goodwin.

She was in eighth grade when she realized she didn’t have much of an interest or much of a flair for the game. Her father, Jim, an assistant track and field coach at Skowhegan, had an idea.

“I wasn’t really that deep into basketball, so when I was in eighth grade it wasn’t really the most fun time,” she said. “He was like ‘Well, in high school, there’s indoor track. So you should try outdoor track this year and see if you like it.’

“So I tried it. It wasn’t really high pressure, just to see if I liked it. And I fell in love with it.”

Now a senior at Lawrence, Goodwin has become the Bulldogs’ ace, a jumping and running star who single-handedly makes the Bulldogs a Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference contender this winter.

But that’s only part of it. The work doesn’t stop for Goodwin. When the Lawrence meets and practices are over, she’s at home lifting weights, or finding extra practice time at Colby College. And even when Lawrence’s track season ends late in the spring, Goodwin’s doesn’t. She coaches at the Winslow summer track program, which feeds the Lawrence team, helping to shape the next wave of high school track and field stars.

On the track, she ensures Lawrence is competitive in the present. Off it, she helps make sure it’ll stay that way in the future.

“She’s just got a great heart, big heart,” said Winslow track coach Ken Nadeau, who oversees Goodwin and the rest of the Winslow summer program. “Good personality. She just works really, really hard, and I think the kids know that, so they spend time with her. She has that natural draw about her, especially with the littler kids.”

Goodwin is the heart of the Lawrence girls’ team. The defending Class B long jump state champion last spring in outdoor has been no less effective this winter, competing in 12 events in four meets. She’s finished no worse than third in any of them and has won seven, including three wins apiece in the long jump and the triple jump.

That’s why track clicked for her right away, she said. Put in the work, and you reap the rewards.

“I think the thing that drives me most to track and field is knowing how well I can do and how hard I can push myself,” said Goodwin, who also runs the 400 and the 800, where she picked up the other first-place finish. “All these countless hours actually mean something, like a medal or a place.”

Goodwin doesn’t skimp on the work. At home, she’s using her family’s weight room to build strength, but she also uses study hall periods in school to head over to Colby and get more practice in. Even if Lawrence doesn’t have practice, she’ll go to Skowhegan and work with her father, who coaches the Indians’ jumpers.

“Track is my favorite sport, and it’s the one I put most of my time into,” she said. “I also tried cross country this year, which is like track. It’s basically all I train for.”

Nadeau doesn’t get to coach her, but he said he’s been able to see her dedication up close.

“She’s a really hard worker,” he said. “She’s all business, all the time. She really wants to define her craft.”

Nadeau and Goodwin become teammates in the summer, however. Lawrence doesn’t have its own program, so future Bulldogs go to Winslow’s. Goodwin’s focus is the triple jump, and she teaches it to kids ranging from middle schoolers to as young as 4 or 5 years old.

“Sometimes it’s like herding cats,” Nadeau said. “(But) she’s really kind, she’s kind of soft-spoken so it’s easy for kids to approach her.”

She said she loves the chance to shape young talent.

“I love working with the little kids and seeing them improve, because they drastically improve once you give them a few good workouts,” said Goodwin, whose brother Trey and sister Paige went through the program. “It’s great to be able to also help my siblings and get their passion going for track.”

When it comes to teaching technique, Goodwin’s found ways to get her points across. To encourage them to get their hands in the air on the jump, she tells the kids to give her a high-five. The younger ones like hearing her lessons on how to land.

“They always laugh when I tell them to make sure their butts are in the sand pit,” she said. “Because that’s how we should be jumping.”

“She’s a natural teacher,” Nadeau said. “She gets down to their level and she always has a smile, she’s always smiling and encouraging the littles to do what they’re there to do.”

Goodwin doesn’t just settle for cameos. Nadeau said she logged 70 hours, at least, at the program the past summer.

“Because of her positivity, I think she draws kids to the program,” he said. “That’s what you need as a coach, you need to have those types of leaders around. And she’s one of them.”

Nadeau said that leadership extends to Goodwin’s own team, which she’ll try to guide to KVAC success this winter and then in the spring.

That’ll mean leaning on the ace. Goodwin’s ready for it.

“I’m trying to do as many events as I can,” she said. “I’m really excited to see how we’re going to do as a team.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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