The story thus far of the high school track and field season — and for that matter, the spring sports season — has been bad weather and bad field conditions.
But for at least one central Maine school, a new facility has provided an advantage to those elements.
While its season has essentially been a washout to this point, the Messalonskee track team has been able to have practices outside thanks to its brand new, $3.9 million facility.
“I can tell you, as far as track practice goes, we are probably in much better shape than a lot of the other teams,” Messalonskee coach Matt Holman said. “Certainly a lot of the teams that are north of Augusta.”
Indeed, the new Oakland facility provides amenities that other central Maine schools simply do not have, most notably its new artificial football field, to go along with the new eight-lane track.

Messalonskee’s, from left, Hunter Smart, Charlotte Wentworth and Alexa Brennan, run on the new eight-lane track that replaces the “dirt oval” and that surrounds the new athletic field earlier this month in Oakland. Morning Sentinel photo by David Leaming

“With the turf field, the track was cleared before April vacation,” Holman said. “We’ve been fortunate with the track surface and the jumping pits. It’s just been our throwing fields. We haven’t been on our discus or shot put fields yet.”

Because most of the area has been available since April vacation, the team has had the ability to practice outdoors and simulate drills and events that would have otherwise been impossible to do outdoors in previous years.
“A lot of the kids transfer over from indoor track, so they’re used to the fake track workouts, the hallway workouts, the outside parking lot stuff,” Holman said. “Outdoor (season), it’s usually a continuation of that. Parking lots, roads, dirt, stuff like that. To get out there and just put hurdles on actual hurdle marks, and not have to measure out distances between hurdles, to put spikes on and actually run a sprint without wondering (if the ground) is a mud pit, or wonder if we’re going to slip and fall. It’s just hard to explain to somebody that hasn’t been in this situation how fortunate we are to have this facility. All of our practices are more efficient. We don’t have to spend as much time prepping, measuring, and trying to be creative. Our workouts have been fantastic.”
The team was ready to host its first home meet since the 1980s last week, but the event was rained out. Messalonskee still has the opportunity to host a meet in the regular season finale on May 17, and as of press time, the team was trying to reschedule the canceled event. In the meantime, the Eagles will simulate meets in their brand new facility, with a leg up on the rest of the competition. All track teams will have a three-week regular season before preparing for conference and state meets.
“I think track is one of those unique sports, where you’re always trying to race against the clock, always trying to challenge yourself, teammates are racing each other,” Holman said. “I would say the lack of a track meet probably effects us minor to lack of a baseball game or lack of a lacrosse game…We can mimic (meets) fairly well. We do our best to keep people crisp and efficient and focused on the next meet.”
• • •
Some track athletes need an entire season to break a record.
For Hall-Dale’s Ashtyn Abbott, all it took was one meet.
Abbott, a senior high jumper, tied the school record last season with a jump of 6 feet, 4 inches at the Class C state championship meet, tying him with Jon Whitcomb, who had broken the record a year prior.

Hall-Dale’s Ashtyn Abbott wins the high jump during the Class C track and field state meet last June at Massabesic High School in Waterboro. Abbott set a school record in the event in his first meet this season by jumping 6-5.

Abbott laid full claim to the record at Hall-Dale’s home meet April 22 in Farmingdale, when he cleared a height of 6-5.

“We had kind of joked after basketball season, he came in and said ‘I’m going to jump 6-5 in the first meet and get it over with.'” Hall-Dale coach Jarod Richmond said. “I said ‘I’m sure you are.’ It’s just really early in the season to go ahead and do that. I wandered my way over there (during the meet) and he had just cleared 6-2, and he said ‘What should I do?’ I told him ‘Just go right to 6-5, you said you were going to do it anyway, so put you’re money where your mouth is.’ He cleared it on the second attempt. He missed on the first attempt, we made a small tweak, and he cleared it on the second try.”
Abbott breaking the record in itself is no shock, as he is the returning Class C champion in the event. But breaking the record, Richmond said, helps take some early pressure off, and gives the ability to create new goals going forward into the postseason.
“I think it gives him confidence,” Richmond said. “It’s a great way to start the year off. It sets — no pun intended — the bar high for him the rest of the way.”
Richmond credits Abbott’s work in basketball during the winter, and his ability to challenge himself, as reasons for his early season success. To this point, Abbott has a set training regimen that Richmond trusts.
“He’s going to get to be very independent (in his training),” Richmond said. “He’s got a set routine. He’s got (ideas) we’ve talked about. He’s pretty regimented to it. At this point, too, he’s in tremendous shape from basketball. He just has a gift of being able to jump, he makes it look effortless to be able to get up high in the air like that. It’s easy to coach him, but it’s a neat little puzzle to make tweaks here and there.”

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