Winthrop girls track and field coach Cameron Fecteauat said there’s only one thing anyone needs to know about junior sprinter Jillian Schmelzer.

“She’s got guts,” Fecteau said.

It took guts for Schmelzer to step out of her comfort zone, the shorter sprints, and try the 400-meters this season, Fecteau said. It took guts to embrace a race Schmelzer describes as nothing but painful. It took guts to find the kick over the final 100 meters of the 400 at the Class C state meet and tie the state record.

Jillian Schmelzer, center, of Winthrop, competes in the 200-meters at the New England track and field championships this year at Thornton Academy. Portland Press Herald photo by Brianna Soukup

“The 400 hurts really bad, but when it’s over you’re glad you did it,” Schmelzer said.

Schmelzer’s time of 58.47 in the state meet at Mt. Blue High School in Farmington tied the mark set by Orono’s Olivia Alford in 2004. Schmelzer also won the 100 at the Class C meet, running the sprint in 12.5 seconds. She also placed second in the 200 (26.28 seconds). A week earlier, Schmelzer won all three events at the Mountain Valley Conference championship.

With two state titles, including a state record, as well as three conference championships, Schmelzer is the Kennebec Journal Girls Track and Field Athlete of the Year. Cony’s Anna Reny, who set a state record in the 300 hurdles at the Class B state meet, was also considered.

As a sophomore, Schmelzer placed fourth in the 100 and second in the 200 at the Class C state meet, and anchored Winthrop’s 4×100 and 4×400 relay teams. Fecteau saw Schmelzer’s mental toughness, and thought adding the 400 — one hard lap around the track — was a natural fit.

“I knew it would be a step up for her,” Fecteau said. “She’s that athlete who, when she’s finished the race and runs a PR (personal record), good is not good enough. She’s a true workhorse. She’s always hungry for more.”

Schmelzer has a pre-400 routine. She skips and stretches to get her muscles loose and to get out of her own way, mentally.

“Mentally, it’s pretty gutsy,” Schmelzer said of the 400. “I try to calm myself down and clear my mind.”

Schmelzer ran her first 400 in 1:06, Fecteau said, which was approximately eight seconds slower than her time at the state meet.

“It’s something we built up to. To go that far is incredible. To do that in such a short time is incredible,” Fecteau said.

Schmelzer won the 400 at the MVC meet in 59.03 seconds, and had run a 59 flat earlier in the season, so breaking 59 seconds at states was the goal, she said. Around 300 meters into the state race, Maranacook’s Molly McGrail took a slight lead.

“(McGrail) pushed me at the 300 corner,” Schmelzer said. “I try to accelerate around the corner. I closed my eyes and gutted it out.”

Schmelzer edged McGrail at the finish, 58.47 to 58.79 seconds. Initially, Schmelzer was thrilled to break the 59 second barrier. Then Fecteau opened the race program and saw the state record.

“Coach points at the time in the booklet, and we were shocked,” she said.

When Fecteau heard Schmelzer’s version of her reaction to the state record, he laughed.

“I chuckle because I’m always surprised by her performances. I don’t take anything for granted,” he said.

Even with her success in her new event, Schmelzer still calls the 100 her favorite race.

“I really enjoy it. It’s short, it’s a warmup,” Schmelzer said. “It’s nerve-wracking. A bad start or a little tiny delay can tick a half second off your time.”

Schmelzer already has goals in mind for her senior season of track and field, including breaking 57 seconds in the 400. She’s starting to explore college options, including the University of Maine, University of Vermont, and Husson University in Bangor.

“I think running at the college level would be really fun, and I’ll work for it,” Schmelzer said.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM






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