BRUNSWICK — As the first weekend of January arrives, it’s about as desolate as a university campus can be on a cold night at Bowdoin College.

Students are still home for winter break, and with snow and ice on the roads, few people are out and about. Yet for as lifeless as it outdoors, there’s an energy to be found in the school’s William Farley Field House — especially in the jumping area, where Waterville indoor track and field’s Kara Anderson and Maddie Yakimchick roam.

The two junior jumpers draw applause from those watching the KVAC indoor meet as they make impressive leaps to top the field in the long jump. They’re no less enthusiastic after their jumps are finished, skipping around the infield and even letting a few yells and howls as their attentions turn to the next event.

“We’re very weird, and we know it,” Yakimchick said with a laugh. “We shout, and we howl; we’re just loud. We like to have fun, and I feel like we don’t care too much what other teams think of us.”

Ever-energetic, Anderson and Yakimchick have emerged as high-level competitors for the Purple Panthers. Now leaders on a small, youthful Waterville girls team, the two have made immense strides over the past three seasons to become some of the top-ranked athletes in the KVAC.

There are few jumpers more boisterous than Anderson, who Yakimchick said is always “the one screaming the loudest” for the Purple Panthers at KVAC meets. Whether she records a good jump or a bad jump, she’s immediately back on her feet and excited to build on her progress or improve on a mistake.


Anderson is currently KVAC Class B’s top-ranked performer in the long and triple jumps with two first-place finishes in each this year. It’s a major step up from last season, in which she took sixth in the long jump and eighth in the triple jump in the conference championships.

“Honestly, in my first two seasons doing track as a whole, I’ve never really been this good in the long jump, so to finally be there at No. 1 is shocking and nerve-wracking,” Anderson said. “You get to that spot, and it’s like, ‘How can I hold that?’ It’s different, but it’s a really proud feeling.”

Yakimchick is right there with her teammate. She was KVAC Class B champ in the triple jump last year with a distance of 32-6.75, and her indoor long jump personal record of 15-4.5 isn’t far behind Anderson’s mark of 15-7. She was also Class B’s state outdoor champ in the long jump last year with a distance of 15-5.

Although both Waterville head coach Katie Souviney and Yakimchick herself would give the vocal edge to Anderson, that’s not to say the former’s presence isn’t just as noticeable. Yakimchick is plenty lively herself, Anderson said, and as one of Waterville’s most vociferous “Werewolves,” she also brings atmosphere to meets and team activities with her howling.

“We call ourselves the Waterville Werewolves, so we howl,” Yakimchick said. “I don’t know if I can remember how it started, but it’s kind of an inside joke for us. Lawrence does a howl; we’re the Panthers, so we’re cats, but we didn’t want to meow, so we just started howling, too.”

Determined to take the next step over the summer, Anderson and Yakimchick elected to compete in USA Track and Field’s National Junior Olympics in Sacramento, California. The competition pitted the two against some of the country’s best track and field athletes, many of whom were on scholarships to Division I colleges.


Waterville’s Madison Yakimchick runs toward the pit on her last long jump attempt during a Jan. 6 indoor track and field meet at Bowdoin College in Brunswick. Madison Yakimchick finished second in the long jump, third in the triple jump and froth in 55-meter dash. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Competing as unattached athletes rather than doing so through private clubs, the two had to rely on their own expertise with no coaches present. The experience also gave the two some perspective on winning and losing after finishing behind some of the best jumpers the country has to offer.

“I like to win, everybody likes to win, but there’s nothing more rewarding than losing but losing to really good people,” Yakimchick said. “I was talking to people who told me, ‘I’ve been jumping since kindergarten, and I’m committed to Texas,’ and I’m here like, ‘Oh, I learned to jump in the hallway during COVID my freshman year.’ It taught me a lot.”

It’s a mature attitude for teenagers competing alone 3,000 miles from home, and that maturity has been a boon for a Waterville girls team with just eight members. Between the jumping of Anderson, Yakimchick and Kate Rice and Isabel Derosby’s numerous top-half finishes in the shot put, the Panthers have stayed competitive despite their small size.

Although both Anderson and Yakimchick bring zest to Waterville meets, there is, according to Souviney, a slight difference in their personalities. Even with Anderson being the “more easily excitable” and Yakimchick being “the serious one,” she said, those contrasts serve to make both athletes better.

Waterville’s Kara Anderson lands in the pit after completing her last long jump attempt during a Jan. 6 indoor track and field meet Friday at Bowdoin College in Brunswick. Anderson won the long jump, high jump and triple jump. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“They kind of balance each other’s personalities out, and that really helps them and gives us a better playing field,” Souviney said. “They have a lot of speed and a lot of power and coordination, which are important qualities. They’re also great friends, and they’re always pushing each other.”

It’s a success story that began, as Yakimchick noted, with the two practicing in the Waterville hallways during a 2020-21 winter in which no competitive meets were held. After those dreary days, they’re happy to, quite literally, bring some vibrance to the air.

“There’s nothing like striking the ground, holding it in the air and being able to fly for so long,” Anderson said. “It’s the best feeling. … We know we can rely on each other, and we both want to keep getting better.”


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