BETHEL — A year ago, Ben Lewis was going through some growing pains — literally.
The Telstar runner was growing too fast as a freshman and his muscles were slow to keep pace. Now that he’s healthy, it is the MVC competition that is struggling to keep up.
“We really expect some great things from him because he’s healthier,” said Telstar coach Dave Leclerc.
Lewis won a pair of races in decisive fashion Thursday at a six-team track meet hosted by Telstar. Lewis won the mile and two-mile and looked strong in both. When Lewis finished the two-mile, he ended with an exclamation point, bursting into a near sprint to end his eight laps. He then returned to the finish line to cheer on the other runners as they finished.
“After Monday’s race, I wasn’t sure what was going to happen,” said Lewis, who finished second in the 1,600 earlier in the week. “In the mile, I haven’t really been able to get over the 5:02 mark yet. I’ve done either 5:02 or 5:03 a lot.”
In the two-mile, he teamed up with fellow Rebel Adam Mahar. Those two took command early and Lewis pulled away down the stretch.
“In the two-mile, the thing that helped me out the most was my teammate,” said Lewis. “The first couple of laps, we traded back and forth. We try to do that a lot. There’s a lot of friendly competition.”
Winthrop and Livermore Falls ended up tied in the boys’ meet with 127 points each. St. Dom’s was third with 118 followed by Telstar’s 69 and Jay’s 19. In the girls’ meet, Winthrop won with 105 followed by Mountain Valley with 98. Livermore Falls was close behind in third with 92, followed by St. Dom’s 69 and Telstar’s 61.
A year ago, Lewis was hampered by an injury to his quad. Because he was growing so quickly, it was tough on his muscles, especially when he was trying to compete. He eventually finished the season strong, taking sixth in the mile and seventh in the two-mile in the MVC’s.
“I hope to improve on those a little bit,” he said. “I was injured early last year. So I definitely feel a lot better this year. I wasn’t at this point until the MVC’s last year.”
The success Lewis is already demonstrating is really no surprise to his coach. Leclerc has had him since middle school and has only watched him get better and better.
“Ben’s just a great runner,” said Leclerc. “He started with me in middle school and cross country. He was No. 2 then on the team. He worked hard and stayed with it. Somewhere in the eighth grade or ninth grade, he switched to that No. 1 spot, and he just been going from there.”
Leclerc is reluctant to put any prediction on what Lewis could do this season. He’ll see a lot of meets where he won’t see the top-notch competition in his events. That will make it tough for when he races in the big meets next month. Still, Leclerc fully expects him to be among the top finishers in the MVC and challenge to place in the states as well.
“He’s only a sophomore,” said Leclerc. “So we’re thinking four years with him and not just this year.”
Other standouts at the meet included Winthrop’s Travis Hutchins. He won the shot, javelin and discus. Livermore Falls’ Jacob Freeman had wins in the long jump and high jump while St. Dom’s Peter Keaney doubled up with wins in the 200 and 400.
On the girls’ side, Winthrop’s Kenzie Hill is looking for big things this year as well. She won the 800 in the MVC last year and was third in the states. She’s gunning for more this year.
“I really want to try to win states,” said Hill. “My coach believes in me and everyone says I can do it.”
Hill came into the season ranked second in the event at a time of 2:32.28. She won the 800 easily Thursday with little competition to challenge her.
“I just need to see how far I can go,” she said of the easy win. “It’s hard without someone to run with.”
Hill is already running as well as she did last year. At her last meet, she matched the time she had in the state meet last June. That’s encouraging and makes her excited about what could follow.
“After the ski season ended, we went right to training for track,” said Hill. “That’s different from every other year. Usually we wait awhile until the track season starts. So we’ve been training for awhile.”
That shows with the rest of the Rambler team as well. Karen Rice won the 100 and 200 while Anna Doyle took the 1,600 and 3,200.
The St. Dom’s track team has started the season well also, especially considering it is a whole new venture for the Saints. St. Dom’s fared well against the MVC competition and have been encouraged by what they’ve been able to do in three meets this year.
“There’s no question that there’s good competition in the conference,” said St. Dom’s coach Keith Weatherbie. “The kids are having a great time, and they’re working hard. For many of them, it’s a brand new experience. There’s only one girl that’s ever run in a high school track meet before.”
The Saints have 40 athletes on the newly-formed team and 31 of those are underclassmen, but St. Dom’s hasn’t looked overmatched in meets thus far. The girls’ have greater numbers than the boys’ squad and have had some good results to show for it.
“We’ve done pretty well,” said Weatherbie. “In the first meet back in April in Wiscasset, there were five teams and the girls finished second out of five teams. That’s great. We’re really young, but they’re doing a really good job.”
In addition to Keaney’s two wins, the Saints boys’ got a win from Patrick Lachance in the racewalk and a victory by Jake Sicotte in the triple jump.