Gardiner junior Ashlyn Poulin celebrates after finishing third at the Nike Indoor Nationals on March 11-13 in Staten Island, New York. Contributed photo

Gardiner Area High School junior Ashlyn Poulin picked the right time to turn a breakout performance on the track.

Poulin finished third in the 1,500-meter racewalk (7:51.48) March 11-13 at the New Balance Nationals Indoor event in New York City. That same weekend, Poulin finished third in the one mile racewalk (7:55.86) at the Nike Indoor Nationals in Staten Island, New York.

“(It feels) pretty good, I’m really excited,” Poulin said.

Poulin then went on to win the USATF National Youth Indoor Championship for 17-18 girls in the 3,000-meter racewalk (16:35.93) on March 21 in Staten Island.

Poulin said she felt confident entering the nationals.

“I was (confident), just from the training I’ve been doing,” Poulin said. “Coming up with plans for when I compete. Strategizing what I’m going to do when I get on the track, who I aim to hang with, or if I’m just aiming to hang on the time. It all depends on the race, really.”


“She worked really hard this winter, but there are a lot of really talented girls at the high school level right now from all across the country,” added Abby Smith, Poulin’s racewalk coach. “Her particular age group is really stacked. The best girls in the country are all her age, they’re all juniors. For her to go and be able to compete against them and get third, both days, is really exciting.”

The racewalk is not an indoor track event in Maine. However, Poulin’s time of 7:51.48 at the New Balance nationals would have been the second-fastest time — in any class — at the outdoor state championships last spring, and immediately sets her as the favorite in the event for the Tigers in Class B this year.

Poulin’s success at nationals is no surprise to Gardiner track and field coach Jen Boudreau.

“She is one of the most dedicated athletes I’ve ever coached,” Boudreau said. “She is just a sponge when it comes to somebody coaching her through things.”

Poulin said her strategy at the New Balance event was trying to stay with Adeline Johnson, of Branson, North Carolina. Poulin has previously competed against Johnson.

Gardiner junior Ashlyn Poulin finished third at the New Balance Nationals Indoor in New York City on March 11-13. Contributed photo

“She was my strategy, I was going to stick with her as long as I could,” Poulin said.


Poulin has enjoyed success in the racewalk. At the Class B championships at Morse High School last June, Poulin (8:32.02) finished second in the event to Izabelle Trefts (7:36.94) of Old Town.

It was around this same time that Poulin started to work with Smith — formerly Abby Dunn — a four-time Class A champion (2009-2012) in the event at Edward Little High School in Auburn, who went on to earn All-American status while competing for Goshen College in Indiana.

“She wanted (to improve) and she was really enthusiastic about it,” Smith said. “But she had never really done a lot of extra (work) or started building her mileage or really thinking of training for anything more than a mile. She would go out there and do whatever you asked her to do, she just didn’t really know what her limit was or where she could push herself. I think she also didn’t realize how good she could be on a national scale.”

Speed and strong technique are key components of racewalking. By rule, one foot must always be in contact with the ground while moving.

“I think it’s the hardest event in track and field,” Boudreau said. “It could be the most stressful on people. It’s the most technical, and then you need the endurance on top of it… When a kid can take it and master it, I just bow down to them. I love all my athletes, I’m very fortunate to have a great and growing team. But Ashlyn has taken that event and, I’m in awe of her. I can’t believe she’s just a junior this year.”

Smith has been able to teach small nuances to Poulin and provided impressive workouts.


“Especially this winter, as she’s been training on treadmills — which is not an easy thing to do — she’s really just gained this confidence and competitive drive that I did not see from her, even from her training (last) summer” Smith said. “I know her mom said the same thing. She’s just a completely different athlete from when I met her. She’s competitive, she’s like ‘I can walk with these girls, I’m going to be one of the best, I’m going to stay with this person.’ It’s a totally different outlook than when I started working with her.”

“(Training) has been going really good, I’ve been improving quite a bit,” Poulin added. “Five days or six days a week I train. My coach (gives me) three hard workouts a week.”

Smith said nationals is a good base for Poulin as she continues to improve heading into outdoor track season.

“I don’t know that necessarily people have been paying attention to what she’s been doing, but I think she might find herself kind of being in a league of her own in Class B,” Smith said. “Compared to the returners, she’s definitely (a favorite). She’s taken 40 seconds off her time and outdoor hasn’t even started yet.”


Dave Dyer — 621-5640

Twitter: @Dave_Dyer

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