Girls’ Indoor Track: Gray-NG throwers putting their names out there

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Times have changed for Ho entering her senior indoor track season, both for her individually, and for the Gray-NG girls’ throwing group . The Patriots are coming off placing four girls’ shot-putters in the top 10 at the Class B outdoor track and field state championships this past spring, with the whole quartet returning for this indoor season.

It was an interesting journey for Ho, from unassuming freshman thrower to  part of a fearsome foursome of girls that has its sights set on four podium finishes at this season’s Class B indoor state meet.

Ho credited her determination and stubbornness for wanting to improve on the 25- to 27-foot throws she was launching as a freshman. She watched shot put videos online to go along with the twice-a-week help she was getting from Amos, whose name appears in the University of Maine track record book.

The following year, Ho was joined by friends and classmates Emily Dawkins and Clara Phillips.

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“I was able to help them a little bit, and I think through time we kind of just really looked after each other and was able to absorb what each other were doing,” Ho said. “We brought each other up as we went.”

“You could see Tram still wanted to be the best on the team, and it really started to push her,” Amos said.

Tram began to see gains, breaking into the 30-foot range as a sophomore, when winning meets became a possibility.

At the same time, freshman Emma MacCallum joined the team on a suggestion from head coach Todd Mercer, who is also a health teacher at the high school, as a way to stay in shape for field hockey. MacCallum admitted she didn’t try very hard that first year, but now throwing has “developed way beyond” a way to stay in shape for field hockey.

All four girls qualified for the outdoor state meet this past spring, and have a goal to do the same for the indoor season this year. It will be their first and last chance to do so: Phillips is participating in indoor track for the first time after swimming competitively in previous winters.

“They’d all like to place together in states,” Amos said. “That’s the big one.”

“Knowing that we could all make it is really cool,” said Dawkins, who called the quartet “more like a little family.”

Amos said the foursome’s success individually has come because of the internal competition.

“It’s definitely a healthy competition,” MacCallum said. “We all want each other to throw farther, but we all definitely want ourselves to just throw a little bit farther than everyone else. I think that healthy competition is so great for us.”

All four throwers were above the 30-foot range at the outdoor state meet, and Amos said all have improved since then. It took a throw of 28 feet, 9.5 inches to place at last year’s Class B indoor state meet, but having all four Patriots place is still no sure thing.

“I think they each have a hard time imagining one of them not making it, even though it’s a simple numbers game,” Amos said. “Only seven can make the podium, and we’re talking four here. So they’ve got some work to do.”

Still, the quartet believes it can accomplish its goal. It’s one that seemed laughable even just a couple years ago, according to Mercer, who is entering his ninth season as Gray-NG’s head coach.

“This group has been a movement,” Mercer said. “They weren’t anything special in the beginning.”

Gray-NG’s throwing program — especially on the girls’ side — had been quiet for nearly a decade when the foursome began growing together. The Patriots had a state champion in the event in 2003, with school record-holder Louise Duffus clearing 38 feet. That team had a dedicated throwing coach — University of Southern Maine assistant coach John Berube. Duffus graduated and Berube left at the end of the school year, and the success of the Gray-NG girls’ throwers began to fade.

Then Amos came in, Ho joined the outdoor team, and the rest soon followed.

“We were kind of the first ones that sort of got better really quickly,” Phillips said. “It’s been really great just the four of us just working it out as we go along.”

“I had no idea we’d get to where we are now. It kind of just came out of the blue,” Ho said.

Ho has her sights set on Duffus’ school record. Duffus’ mother, Elaine, who is substitute teacher at the school, occasionally asks Ho if she’s broken the record yet. That answer could soon be “yes” if Ho performs like she wants to. She also wants to qualify for the New England Championships.

Getting there would mean placing in the state meet, where she hopes to be joined by the other three members of the Patriots’ foursome.

“I think they just expect to perform well this year. And I expect the same thing,” Amos said. “It’s going to be a good year.”

wkramlich@sunjournal.com

2015-16 Winter Preview

Who to watch in high school sports this season:

Indoor Track: 

Nordic Skiing: Ashley Pratt, Emily Thibodeau look to lead Leavitt

Boys’ Basketball: James Ouellette of Spruce Mountain pushes through injury, tragedy

Girls’ Basketball: Winthrop returns to varsity schedule

Boy’s Hockey: Edward Little looking to make a name for itself

Swimming: Lewiston’s Matt Charest gets a lift

Wrestling: Dirigo aims to be class act, again

 Girls’ Hockey: Lewiston sets out on a different path

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