Houlton track athletes preparing for success

HOULTON, Maine — There may still be spots of snow on the ground, but that has not stopped Houlton’s track and field athletes from getting an early start to the spring sports season.

Practicing in the high school parking lot most afternoons, the group of 16 student athletes has been busy honing their sprinting, hurdling and throwing skills to be ready for their first meet in a few weeks.

Head coach Chris Rines returns for his eighth season coaching the track athletes and is joined by volunteer assistant Alissa Beals for the fourth year.

“Houlton track is excited to be back this spring,” Rines said. “We return eight veteran athletes who will be joined by eight more newcomers to the program. Of these new eight only two are entirely new to track and field, the remaining six all have rec track, cross country or had done track at their previous schools for experience.”

This year’s group of distance (800-meter, 1,600m, 3,200m, 4x800m, Race Walk) athletes features seniors Jeremy Stone and Emmalyne Drake; juniors Daniel Ross and Ellie Grant, and freshmen Kaitlyn Kenney and Leanne Ross.

For sprinting and hurdle events (100m, 200m, 400m, 100 hurdles, 300 hurdles, 4×100 relay and 4×400 relay) the team features senior Emma Ardell; juniors Elena Ardell, Isabella Ardell, Samantha Johnson, Hope Royal, Aliya Sabattis-Weber, Titus Ortiz and Tabitha Blachard, and sophomore JJ Bourgoin.

The Shires’ lone dedicated shot put athlete this spring will be freshman Joely Stone, but coming down from the other disciplines to join her in discus and javelin will be Kenney, Royal and Ortiz.

In jumps, the Shires will feature A. Ardell and Bourogin for the long and possibly triple jump.

“We have some pretty talented kids on this team and I already know we have some league and state qualifiers here,” Rines said. “Two years ago a lot of our kids ended their seasons on a high note at the state championships in Farmington and several of them have returned picking up right where they have left off.”

Last year’s track and field season was canceled along with all spring sports due to COVID-19.

Key departures from two years ago included throwing standouts Cameron Callnan (2020) and Tessa Solomon (2019), distance stars Teagan Ewings (2020) and Jeannelle Ross (2020), jumping specialists Makenna Cooley (transfer) and Isabel Cosby (2020), sprinters Will Belyea (2020), Miguel Jimenez (2020), hurdlers Cole Winslow (2019) and Eli Bulley (2020), and race walker Ean Bolstridge (2020).

“All of those athletes had experience in the league and state championships and several of whom were also team captains,” Rines said.

The Shires will compete in the high jump event for the first time this year, thanks to the recent acquisition of high jump mats that have allowed the squad to properly practice and train for this discipline.

“In previous years, this event could only be practiced while attending a meet which was less than ideal,” Rines said. “A generous donation by the Houlton Rotary Club combined with our fund-raising efforts over the years made it possible for us to purchase the mats and we would like to thank all those who helped bring this to fruition.”

Several members of the team have expressed interest in this event including Drake, Jeremy Stone, Grant, A. Ardell, Elena Ardell, I. Ardell, Johnson, Ortiz, and Bourgoin.

The Shires track season begins noon Thursday, April 22, at Hampden Academy. 

HOULTON, Maine — April 9, 2021 — Joely Stone practices her javelin toss under the watchful eye of coach Chris Rines during a practice session Friday afternoon. (Joseph Cyr | Houlton Pioneer Times)

HOULTON, Maine — April 9, 2021 — Isabella Ardell (left) and Tabitha Blanchard work on their sprints during a practice session. The track season begins anew April 22. (Joseph Cyr | Houlton Pioneer Times)

HOULTON, Maine — April 9, 2021 — Houlton’s Hope Royal practices her hurdling techniques during an April 9 practice session in the parking lot of Houlton Middle-High School. (Joseph Cyr | Houlton Pioneer Times)

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