Around the Track with Sam Bonsey

After a memorable indoor track season where a few all-time state records were broken, the outdoor season has finally arrived. And if last weekend's slate of meets were any indication, then we are in for one heck of a spring season. Like any spring sport in Maine, the first weeks are always unpredictable with the weather. Often times meets will get delayed or cancelled, but in even in early April where rain is consistent and temperatures barely break 40 degrees on any given day, athletes around the state have already managed to put in some remarkable performances. Some athletes chose to go out-of-state at meets like the the Trinity Elite Distance Festival at Trinity College back in mid-April, or the venerable Penn Relays last weekend to expose themselves against the best of the country in their respective event. Last Friday and Saturday gave way to great weather, which in result led to fast times and high marks. Let's take a look at the best moments from the weekend and the start of the season.

Sprinting highlights

After finishing second in the 100-meters and third in the 200-meters at the Class B State Championships last spring, Mount Desert Island junior Ashley Anderson started her season on a high note on her home track on Saturday. Anderson won the 100m running a state-leading time of 12.67 seconds, then finished second to teammate Tia Tardy in the 400m running 59.81. Tardy won the event in 59.25 which is currently the fastest time in the state. Anderson is already showing championship form early in the season, as her 12.67 100m opener set a PB by .11 seconds. Granted it's very early, but she's just one of two athletes in the state to have run under 13 seconds this season (Madison Post of Gray-New Gloucester ran 12.84 last Friday on her home track). Her run in the 400m shouldn't go unnoticed, either. Her run on Friday marked the first time Anderson has gone under 60 seconds. This is coming from an athlete who came into the outdoor season with a PB of 1:01.72. She didn't run the 400m at the Class B Championships last June, but with her fast time so early in the season, Anderson may have to reconsider her options.

Speaking of fast 400s, Cheverus senior Emily Turner opened her season running 1:00.30 for the win at Windham High School back on April 27. Turner, who is the defending outdoor champion in the 100m, 200m and 400m, seems to be picking up where she left off from the indoor season. While she might not have performed as well as she wanted to in the 200m, Turner was the runner-up in the 400m at the Class A Indoor State Championships and was one of three females in Maine to break 60 seconds this winter. She deserves to be the favorite in Class A in the 400m, but she'll face her biggest challenges in the 200m as she likely be going up against her own teammate Emma Gallant, who just ran 26.30 at the same meet, and Scarborough's Emily Labbe.

Winslow senior Ben Smith had a tremendous opener running 11.33 in the 100-meters, 22.83 in the 200m and 52.25 in the 400m at Mt. Blue High School in Farmington last Friday. This is a great opener for any sprinter around the state, but it makes it even more impressive when you consider this is Smith's first time running outdoor track. While Smith competed indoors, and fared very well -- he was third in both the 55-meters and 200-meters, and finished fourth in the 400m at the Class B Indoor State Championships -- he has played on the Winslow baseball team since his freshmen year and just made the switch to outdoor track. Breaking 23 seconds in the 200m is an amazing accomplishment in the state of Maine and the fact that he did it so early in the season shows he has tremendous upside in the event.

Scarborough freshmen Jarrett Flaker used the momentum from his record-breaking indoor campaign to have a fast opening debut at Biddeford High School on April 27. Flaker won the 200m, running 23.22 seconds to break the all-time freshmen record outdoors. He led an impressive Red Storm outing in the event, with senior teammate Ben Batoosingh .07 back in 23.30 and freshmen Ben Hatch right behind in 23.52. Scarborough currently has three of the top-five fastest 200 times in the state, and that's not even including All-American Sam Rusak, who is the defending outdoor state champion in the event and ran 22.82 last spring. The Red Storm broke the all-time state record in the 4x200-meter relay during the indoor season, and have a chance at breaking the 4x400-meter record this spring, which is 3:24.34 set by Cheverus High School back in 2014.

Field highlights

Have any two athletes had better start to their seasons than Orono senior Jakae Koffman and Mattwanacook sophomore Cayden Spencer-Thompson? In just the first two weeks of the season, both have broken all-time state records. Koffman broke his own state record in the discus, throwing 191 feet, 11 inches at Berwer High School back on April 17. He then made his way to the 123rd running of the Penn Relays last weekend to expose his talents to the rest of the country. The Stanford bound Koffman finished fourth in the discus just missing his record breaking throw, throwing 191 feet, 3 inches. As previously documented in a Milesplit article by Connor Doherty, Koffman is on pace to break the New England Outdoor Championship meet record throw of 190-02, which was set by Alan Baginski of Providence, Rhode Island back in 1979. He's also aiming to throw 210 feet. He also has thrown over 55 feet in the shot put in the early stages of the season, which ranks third in the state.

Speaking of the shot put, Matt Brady of Biddeford joined the 60-foot club, throwing 62 feet, 2 inches in his opener on Friday to set the benchmark for the rest of the state. With the throw, Brady is the third Mainer ever to throw over 60 feet outdoors. The state of Maine is in the middle of a truly amazing era in the shot put event. After South Portland's Daniel Guiliani became the first Maine school boy ever to throw over 70 feet, a new group of throwers including Brady, Koffman and Brewer's Austin Lufkin has maintained Maine prowess in the event. You can make a case that Maine has the best shot putters in New England. And it's going to continue with up-and-coming throwers like sophomores Jason Montano of Thornton Academy and Jacob McCluskey of Brewer.

Cayden Spencer-Thompson has, pun intended, made an exceptional leap in his fitness in his sophomore season. As a freshman, he had outdoor season-bests of 6-00 feet in the high jump, 20-05.75 feet in the long jump, and 43-11.75 feet in the triple jump. Absolutely spectacular marks for a freshmen, and what he's done to start the 2017 season has been memorable. In his first meet back on April 20, Spencer-Thompson opened with wins in the high jump (6 feet, 5 inches), long jump (21-03 feet) and triple jump (46-04 feet). Then on Saturday, he had the jump of his career, jumping 47 feet, 6.75 inches which broke the previous all-time state record of 46-9.25 feet set by Atencio Martin of Traip Academy back in 2013. Spencer-Thompson is currently the top sophomore in the U.S. in the event, and should be considered a title threat at the New England Championships in June. 47-01.50 feet was enough to win the New England title last year.

Distance highlights

A few of the top distance runners in the state made their way to the Trinity Elite Distance Festival at Trinity University in Hartford, Connecticut two weeks ago. Putting in the most impressive performance from a Maine athlete had to be Bonny Eagle senior Ben Steeves, who finished third in the 800-meters in 1:56.59. It's a stellar time for Steeves, considering that it was the first outdoor 800 he's ever run. His teammate Kayla Raymond competed in the girls 800, and ran a state-leading time of 2:22.02 to finish fourth. The Falmouth Yachtsmen sent senior Jeremiah Sands and sophomore Malaika Pasch to the meet as well. Sands, who missed most of the indoor season, ran to a fifth-place finish in the mile running 4:33.49, while Pasch ran 5:154.32 in the girls' mile, finishing second.

It's encouraging to see Sands run a fast time early in the season. As stated above, he missed most of the indoor season including the postseason, and early-season times like this should improve his confidence. When healthy, he's one of the most talented runners in the state. He had PBs of 2:00/4:23/9:28 last spring and was the top Mainer at the New England Cross-Country Championships last fall finishing seventh. The distance events in Class A always have plenty of depth with multiple runners being able to win a state championship on any given day, but we've seen that with Sands healthy, he's very hard to beat. The same can be said on the girls side as well. With Raymond running a fast time, the girls 800 will be one of the premiere events at the Class A state meet. South Portland's Juliana Selser deserves to be the favorite after winning the indoor title, but Pasch has run sub-2:20 on numerous occasions and Raymond seems ready to break that barrier in the coming weeks.

And while Steeves ran a really impressive time so early in the season, he may not even be the favorite in the event in Class A. Remember, Zachariah Hoyle of Messalonskee beat Steeves for the indoor title running 1:56.79 and while he may not have blown the doors off in his first outdoor 800 like Stevens did, he still ran 2:03.35 last weekend to beat Mt. Ararat's Cameron Meier (2:03.42) which is a fine time so early in the season. And we've gone this far without even mentioning Hoyle's teammate Owen Concaugh, who is the defending outdoor champion and ran 1:54 at the New England championships last June. He didn't run indoors but opened his season with a good 1,600, running 4:33.96 this weekend. Hopefully we will be able to see all three of these runners healthy and ready to go come June.

Yarmouth junior Luke Laverdiere opened his season with a great 1600/3200 double at Cape Elizabeth high school on Friday. Laverdiere won the 1600 in 4:21.26 to win by more than nine seconds, then won the 3200 in 9:34.67, pulling away from Freeport senior Henry Jaques who was 12 seconds back in 9:46. Both are state-leading times and Laverdiere's 4:21.26 broke his previous outdoor PB of 4:12.75. The opener for Laverdiere hopefully means that he will try and chase a fast time in the 3,200 meters at the Glenn D. Loucks Games in White Plains, New York coming up in a few weeks. Laverdiere ran there last year and ran a PB of 9:18. If he chooses the race there and has a perfect race, I wouldn't be surprised to see him go under 9:10. He's more fit now than he was at this time last year, so it's not unreasonable to picture him running that fast.