Messalonskee indoor track and field athlete Ben Ireland works on his shot put technique while practicing inside the high school on Dec. 1. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, last winter’s indoor track “season” turned into an extended spring training for the outdoor season. With proper track facilities closed to the outside world, high school teams were forced to run, jump and throw in their gyms, and keeping track of athletes’ progress was tough.

“They got timed for a 200, or a 1,600, 3,200, but the accuracy of doing that inside for a high school hallway isn’t superb,” Winslow coach Ken Nadeau said. “We didn’t do any sort of real competing.” 

While COVID still hangs over the world, central Maine track teams will return to full-fledged competition this winter. Colby College’s facilities remain closed to high schools, but Bowdoin College, the University of Maine and the University of Southern Maine have agreed to host events, according to area coaches. Protocols such as masks and testing will be in place, and fan attendance likely will be limited, but the meets will go on, culminating in the Maine Principals’ Association championships Feb. 19-21.

“Bowdoin’s been really good to the (Winslow) varsity year after year,” Nadeau said. “The colleges and universities don’t really have to offer their facilities, but those three places did, and Bowdoin’s worked really hard to make something of it.”

Waterville will primarily compete at Bowdoin this season, and coach Katie Souviney said her team is up to the task.

Messalonskee indoor track and field sprinters and jumpers circle the track during a Dec. 1 practice at the school. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

“It’ll be challenging making sure the athletes are prepared to compete without having access to any local tracks for practice, but all teams will be in the same situation,” Souviney said. “We’re ready to take the challenge head on and the athletes are all excited to finally get back to competing indoors.”

The season itself offers some mystery. This year’s seniors were only sophomores the last time there was formal competition in 2019-20, and athletes from two classes (freshman and sophomore) instead of one will be new to the varsity game.

Nadeau’s Black Raiders will rely heavily on seniors Ryan Martin (sprints), Levi Olin (200, 400, triple jump), Evan Watts (sprints), Zachary St. Pierre (long jump, triple jump) and Ryan Yang (distance). The Winslow girls, who won three straight Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference titles from 2018-20, will look to senior twins Kaci and McKayla Fortin in utility roles, with help from Allie Kimball (400) and Vanessa Norris (distance).

“In a rebuilding year, I’m going to put kids in places where I think they can score,” Nadeau said.

Cony coach Kevin Russell expects his girls team, which placed second at the 2020 KVAC B meet, to contend again, with Grace Kirk (800), Brianna Harriman (800) and Mallory Audette leading the way.

“We have lot of experience and quality athletes in those three girls,” said Russell, who also has indoor track newcomer Emma Brown (pole vault) and sprinters Jenna Hanoian and Elise Cunningham, who will be counted on to fill the sneakers of the graduated Anna Reny, who captured the hurdles title at the 2020 KVAC meet. Lorelli Grady, who ran cross country in the fall, is slated to run distance events, and Caroline Hendrickson will contribute in the jumps.

“Our girls will challenge for the KVACs,” Russell said. “We just have to maximize all our points in the events we’re competing in.” 

The boys will feature more depth than in previous seasons, Russell said. Senior Jacob Pelletier, a cross country runner heading for USM, will join Sam Coffin, Sam Goldey and James Mooney on the 4×800 meter team. Cole Hammer (sprints, jumps), Cohen Parker (sprints, jump) and Sundaniel Phan (pole vault) also are expected to contribute.

Grace Kirk enjoyed a standout cross country season this fall, and she will now shift her focus to the indoor track season. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Maine Central Institute has a deep roster of 26 girls after placing fourth at the 2020 KVACs. Emma Burr (sprints), Gracie Moore (sprint, hurdles), Samantha Martin (pole vault, jumps) and Shalomi Goewey (high jump) are among the key returnees; Burr was fourth in the 200 and fifth in the 400 at the 2020 KVACs. The boys have only 10 athletes but return junior Zane Dean (multiple) and senior Jackson Leonard (shot put).

Erskine has only one athlete (senior Clayton Allen) with varsity indoor track experience, but coach Scott Rollins has plenty of enthusiasm for his team, which held several practices via Zoom last winter. Allen can contribute in a variety of runs “from the 55-meter dash to the 800-meter run,” said Rollins, who also will look to outdoor veteran Gage Moody to bring experience from the 100, 200, high jump and long jump. Junior Malachi Lowery, a member of last winter’s practice team, is expected to add depth.

Senior Riley Reitchel, who captured the 100, 400 and javelin in last spring’s KVAC outdoor meet, joins the girls indoor squad for the first time.

Messalonskee indoor track and field distance runners Adrianna Katz, left, and Brynne Barron circle the the track as coach Neil Amalfitano offers encouragement during a Dec. 1 practice at Messalonskee High School. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

Lawrence coach Timothy Alberts, now in his 22nd season, will rely on a small but dedicated crew led by junior girls Brooklyn Allen (55 meters), Cylie Henderson (pole vault) and Alexis Williams (sprints) and senior boys Gage Boudreau and Trey Goodwin.

“Gage is one of the top throwers in the KVAC and potentially the state,” Alberts said.  “Trey will be highly competitive in any event he chooses this winter.” 

Waterville returns senior Jaden Grazulis (throws) and junior Theo Ruehsen (jumps) on the boys side, while the girls bring back  seniors Hazel Dow (distance), AnnMarie Limberger (distance) and junior Carolyn Kinney (hurdles).

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