POLAND – Kendra Lobley is a girl for all seasons.
All distances, too.
Show the Poland Regional High School junior a cross country running trail and she’ll scorch it. Seventh place in the Class B championship race last fall is evidence of that.
Give Lobley one lap around a standard, 400-meter track and she’ll make the most of it. Finishing fourth at February’s indoor state meet, right in the sneaker tracks of fast freshman teammate Emma Turton, Lobley flashed those skills to anyone carrying a stopwatch.
But that middle ground, that 800-meter netherworld between all-out and a thinking woman’s race … that’s where Lobley’s bread is buttered.
“I love the 800. I like it because you can run fast, but you also have to run fast for a long time,” Lobley said. “And I love the people that run the 800, the competition. I just love the race.”
It loves her back.
In that same indoor state showcase two months ago at Bates College, Lobley dethroned reigning champion Rachel Nichols of Cape Elizabeth by a margin of more than two seconds.
As a state champion, Lobley followed in the footsteps of former mentor Brittany Bell, now competing at Colby. Bell won back-to-back outdoor titles for Poland in the 800 her junior and senior seasons.
“Brittany Bell, Nick Williams, Chelsea Bernardo, Matt York. I’ve had a lot of people to look up to,” Lobley said. “I didn’t really expect (the championship). I was hoping to get in the top three, but I didn’t expect to win states. I talked to (assistant coach Rick) Kramer before the race, and he said to pace and not go out too fast. It was just a really good day. I guess I found my pace that day.”
And here’s some bad news for the competition, steep as it may be in a spring track campaign that sees basketball, soccer and field hockey players join the fray: Lobley likes the scenery of April, May and June best of all.
She’ll be a threat in multiple events this spring. When Poland’s regular season begins April 30, Lobley expects to add the 1,600, 3,200 and 4×400 and 4×800 relays to her itinerary.
Coach Mark Soehren might also test Lobley’s talents in high jump.
“The kids tend to be focused on how they do in the spring and wanting to peak now, especially in the 800. You strength train all the time, but you kind of go from working on the endurance in cross country to speed in the spring,” Soehren said. “They talk about that all the time. It’s everyone’s favorite season. It’s pretty typical of kids. They’re glad to be outdoors. Especially junior year. Senior year, you never know.”
Compared to the rise and fall and flora and fauna evident on most cross country trails, a track might seem steeped in the drudgery of a treadmill, by comparison.
Not so, at least according to Lobley. She feels most comfortable between the white lines.
“Spring track definitely is my favorite. Unlike cross country, you run 3.1 miles and it can be over hills and it can be anywhere,” Lobley said. “When you run on the track, you have a set time in mind and it’s the same every time. I like track because it’s fast and intense.”
Lobley’s eagerness to start the outdoor season is mixed with a healthy dose of nerves. She hopes to earn a Division I scholarship in the sport and knows that the next eight weeks are crucial to those hopes.
Whichever school secures Lobley’s services in 2011-12 and beyond will get an athlete who is eager to learn and needs little motivation, according to her current coach.
“She just has an amazing work ethic and a fantastic attitude,” Soehren said. “We talk about having a different perspective for each season, for each team, and working on different things. I know she wants to get stronger in the 400.”
For now, Lobley will try to balance her value as a distance runner with her natural inclination to fly out of the starting blocks.
“Last year I ran a lot more distance races back-to-back to stay in shape for conferences and states, the races that really count,” she said.
“I like to set the pace. I don’t really like to be behind people. Sometimes it’s not good because I can’t stay ahead of them. I just run with everything and try to win.”
Girls’ athletes to watch
Gwen Beacham, Mt. Blue (distances)
Maame Bonsu, Lewiston (jumps)
Grace Burnett, Winthrop (middle distances)
Emily Chase, Dirigo (hurdles, sprints)
Magnolia Dixon, Mt. Abram (distances)
Anna Doyle, Winthrop (distances)
Abby Dunn, Edward Little (racewalk)
Allison Fereshetian, Leavitt (hurdles)
Allicyn Fitzgerald, Lisbon (jumps)
Jamaica Ford, Mountain Valley (jumps)
Erin Gats, Livermore Falls (jumps, sprints)
Samantha Glover, Mountain Valley (jumps)
Ashten Hackett, Edward Little (hurdles, jumps)
Katherine Harmon, Edward Little (throws)
Chyla Hoitt, Edward Little (hurdles, jumps)
Lindsey Jacques, Jay (jumps)
Melody Lam, Mt. Blue (distances)
Kourtnee Langlois, Monmouth (hurdles)
Tiffany Levesque, Lewiston (hurdles)
Kendra Lobley, Poland (middle distances)
Kristi Macomber, Jay (racewalk)
Taylor Maines, Telstar (distances)
Jaclyn Masters, Edward Little (throws)
Marykate Masters, Edward Little (relays)
Tara Metzger, Lisbon (hurdles, sprints)
Hanna Mogensen, Edward Little (jumps)
Amanda Peterson, Gray-New Gloucester (sprints)
Andrea Pomerleau, Monmouth (hurdles)
Jamie Steven, Telstar (sprints)
Kristen Therrien, Lewiston (pole vault)
Kate Thorne, Mountain Valley (throws)
Emma Turton, Poland (middle distances)
Defending state champions
Class A – Edward Little
Class B – Waterville
Class C – John Bapst
Last year’s order of finish
MVC – 1. Lisbon, 2. Hall-Dale, 3. Winthrop, 4. Telstar, 5. Jay
KVAC ‘A’ – 1. Edward Little, 2. Brunswick, 3. Mt. Ararat, 4. Cony, 5. Lewiston
KVAC ’B’ – 1. Waterville, 2. Winslow, 3. Leavitt, 4. Nokomis, 5. Belfast
WMC – 1. York, 2. Greely, 3. Cape Elizabeth, 4. Falmouth, 5. Poland