Houlton/GHCA track athletes look to continue upward trend

2 years ago

HOULTON, Maine — If all goes as planned, it should be another successful season of the Houlton-Greater Houlton Christian Academy track and field squad this spring.

But if that success is to happen, it will once again take place on the road, as the Shires have no facility to host track and field competition. The closest thing to a “home” meet for Houlton will be competing at Presque Isle Middle School.

The Shires have a number of strong returning athletes and are bolstered by a bumper crop of incoming freshmen who are looking to make their mark. Head coach Chris Rines returns for his ninth season coaching the track athletes.

“We are returning some of the top talent in Class C and also have a very talented freshman class joining us this year,” coach Rines said. “Although our roster numbers are up from a year ago, we are still quite small in team size when compared to some of our rival schools in the PVC and Class C south.”

Joely Stone, a sophomore for the Houlton-GHCA track and field team, tosses the shotput during a recent practice at the school.  (Joseph Cyr | Houlton Pioneer Times)

Jayden Swimm, a senior for the Houlton-GHCA track and field team, practices her discus throws in a field next to the high school. The track team opens its season April 15 in Bucksport. (Joseph Cyr | Houlton Pioneer Times)

Practicing in the high school parking lot most afternoons, the group of 25 student athletes has been busy honing their sprinting, hurdling and throwing skills to be ready for their first meet.

Members of the boys track and field team are: seniors Daniel Ross and Landon DiRusso; juniors Jeremiah Bourgoin and  Samuel Duff; sophomores Terry Valles, Haden Stoker-Pelletier and Gavin Wright; and freshman Phillip Espenscheid.

Members of the girls squad feature seniors Elena Ardell, Isabella  Ardell, Samantha Johnson, Hope Royal and Jayden Swimm; sophomores Ariana Ardell, Katilyn Kenney, Joely Stone, Leanne Ross and Danlen Espenscheid; and freshmen Lily Bergeron, McKenna Phillips, Abigail Duff, Amelia Drake, Teanne Ewings, Natalie Johnson and Katie McQuarrie.

At the State Class competition last year, Houlton/GHCA was the highest ranked local squad as the Shire girls finished sixth out of 30 squads with 32 points. The highlight of the meet for Houlton/GHCA was the girls 4×400 relay team of Isabella Ardell, Johnson, Elena Ardell, and Emma Ardell (who graduated in 2021).

The quartet set a new school record, winning the state championship with a time of 4:19.39.

Danlen Espenscheid (left) and Amelia Drake finish a sprint during a recent track and field practice for the Houlton-GHCA team. (Joseph Cyr | Houlton Pioneer Times)

The girls team also won the Penobscot Valley Conference championship in the small school division and were Aroostook County champs.

Rines said he feels at the county level, the girls team will make a good bid at defending its team title for a second year, but that success will not come easy.

“I know a lot of schools are seeing a resurgence in their roster numbers and talent to go with it,” he said.

Team captains this year are Elena Ardell, Isabella Ardell, Johnson, Royal, Swimm and Daniel Ross.

Johnson is the top returning short distance runner, competing in the 100 meter, 200 and 400. Isabella Ardell and Elena Ardell are also top 400 runners. Leanne Ross is a top returning 1,600 runner and Kenney is looking to continue her state success in the shot put and javelin.

Assisting Rines with the team are volunteer coaches Alissa Beals, hurdles and jumps; William Janakis, distance running; and Micheal Dobbs, throwing events.

The Shires open their season Friday, April 15, at Bucksport.