BRUNSWICK — They have known each other since pre-kindergarten, but didn’t become friends until they were track and field teammates at Waterville High three years ago. They are the Purple Panthers’ star jumpers, yet didn’t take up jumping until high school.

But despite their late introduction to the sport — and each other — seniors Maddie Yakimchick and Kara Anderson have become, in the words of coach Katie Souviney, “the backbone of our team and really good leaders.”

The pair continued their strong seasons during a Jan. 19 Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference indoor meet at Bowdoin College’s William Farley Field House. Anderson took first in the triple jump for her fourth straight victory in the event (33 feet, 0.25 inches), while Yakimchick earned her first long jump victory of the season (15-11.00). The winner the previous four times? Anderson.

They may compete against other schools, but nothing beats the friendly competition they give each other, whether it’s during the season or at summer workouts or meets. The two can often be seen chatting between events or jumps.

“We always go back-and-forth every season,” Anderson said between events last Friday. “I don’t think either of us could be as good as we are if we didn’t have that really strong competition. And it’s honestly made us really good friends, too. We’ve really bonded over our love for track and our competitiveness for the sport.”

Yakimchick, who has not finished below sixth in either the triple or long jumps this winter, twice finished second to Anderson in the long jump before Friday, when Anderson was disqualified on her third jump stepping over the line.


Anderson bore a glum look on her face as she took a seat on the Waterville bench nearby. But the smiles returned about an hour later after her triumphant triple jump win, 1 foot, 4.75 inches ahead of runner-up Kelsie Murray of Messalonskee.

“I think it’s been such a fun journey, seeing us grow individually, but also together,” Yakimchick said. “My dad always says, ‘Iron sharpens iron,’ or ‘steel sharpens steel,’ or something like that. And I think I wouldn’t have got to the level I’m at, and I don’t think Kara would have got to the level she’s at, without us being on the same team. I think there’s this little bit of competitiveness in every practice that makes you better than the competition on other teams.”

Waterville track and field athletes Maddie Yakimchick, left, and Kara Anderson support each other doing warmups before competing in the long jump at a Jan. 19 KVAC meet at Bowdoin College in Brunswick. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Anderson has been a force in the long jump and the triple jump; in both events, she has gone 4 for 5 this season. Last winter, she won the KVAC Class B long jump title and was second in the triple jump. Last spring, she took first in the Class B outdoor long jump. Yakimchick, meanwhile, won the KVAC B indoor triple jump title last year and was runner-up in the long jump. 

Not bad for two people who never jumped until they were in high school three years ago. COVID-19 wiped out the 2020-21 season, so they learned to jump up and down the empty hallways of Waterville High after school, “and the rest is kinda history,” Souviney said. “They’ve kinda taken off from there.”

The Panthers were hit by graduation losses from 2022-23, which Yakimchick admitted made her a little sad going into this season. Anderson noted that after an underwhelming first meet in December, she and her teammates toughed it out in practice in order to improve themselves.

“We had a bunch of hiccups our first couple of meets, but I think I’m finally back on track,” Yakimchick said.


Anderson and Yakimchick aren’t too shabby at other events, either. Yakimchick, who admitted she was never a good sprinter until last year, has a victory in the 55 meters to her credit and set a personal record Friday with a time of 7.82 seconds in a third-place finish. Her lowest finish in the event is sixth. Last spring, she was second in the 100 meters at the Class B state meet and qualified for the New England meet.

“I like running against a lot of Class A girls,” Yakimchick said. “Even though they’re running five-hundredths of a second, five-tenths of a second faster than me, I think it’s fun. A chase is fun.”

Anderson, meanwhile, has four top-five finishes in the high jump, including a fifth-place result Friday. But her favorite event, she said, is the triple jump, which has three different phases and allows her to make up for one poor jump with two good ones. “I just like working through all those phases,” she said.

So what’s next for Waterville’s dynamic duo? Well, some more teammates would be nice; Souviney hopes she can add some athletes for the spring outdoor season. Anderson hopes she can clear 16 feet in the long jump, and she has talked to some college coaches about possibly competing beyond high school. Yakimchick also wouldn’t mind a 16-foot long jump because, in her words, “all the freshmen are jumping 17 feet now.”

In the meantime, Anderson and Yakimchick will continue to be the friendliest of rivals.

“They’ve had that same camaraderie for the last four years, so it’s been fun to watch them foster it and grow together,” Souvieny said.

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