Sans Brooks, EL boys off and running again

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WATERVILLE – There is life after Colby Brooks.

The last two times the Edward Little High School boys’ indoor track and field team saw one of the most accomplished sprinters in school history, Brooks was either picking up his diploma or joining an exclusive club of EL athletes to have his jersey retired.

So the Red Eddies can’t count on three virtually automatic state championships or 30 guaranteed points every time they get off the bus this winter. As a team, however, EL might be every bit as good. They’re definitely deeper. And in a development that shouldn’t surprise anybody, they’re dominant in the dashes.

Two relative newcomers blistered the field in a Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A North meet Saturday at the Colby College Field House. Sophomore Buddy Foss swept the junior 55 and 200 meters while running the anchor leg for a victorious 4×200 relay team. And senior John Alexander – better known for his exploits as a leadoff hitter for the EL baseball team – triumphed in the senior 55 and 200.

“It’s actually a lot more fun this year,” said Foss. “Last year, every workout was hard because we were supposed to push (Brooks) as much as we could. It seems more laid back this year. It’s a lot of fun. I love it. But I have some big shoes to fill. Really big shoes.”

Foss also earned points in the junior shot put.

This is Alexander’s first official season of indoor track. He has worked out with the team in the past but didn’t stick with the sport for the entire season. Like last year’s headline sprinter, Alexander is a natural.

“He’s pretty much running the same times Colby ran as a junior,” said EL boys’ coach Ryan LaRoche.

Alexander shattered his personal record Saturday in the 200 and nearly eclipsed his previous best in the 55.

His most impressive performance might have come in the race he didn’t win. Dead-last by more than one-third of a lap when he took the baton in the 4×200 relay, Alexander made up so much ground that he crossed the wire about 10 yards behind the eventual runner-up.

“If that race had even been close, he would have won it easily,” LaRoche said.

EL won’t lack for February meet scoring potential in middle distances and field events, either. Ben Cleveland’s times in the 200 and 400 qualified him for the state meet. Garrett Wyman (high jump) is also bound for states after his solid showing.

Josh Clark turned in one of the top six pole vaults in the state this season, clearing 12 feet despite competing on a badly sprained ankle. Brian Despres, Matt Harmon and Mat Veinott swept the top three spots in the senior shot put for EL.

“We have kids trying a lot of different events, and that should give us more flexibility at the state meet,” LaRoche said. “We only qualified people for five or six events at states last year, even though we finished fourth.”

While the boys are rebuilding on the fly, the EL girls are growing by leaps and bounds. With more than 20 new faces on the roster this season, numbers and hopes are high.

A computer scoring malfunction made it next to impossible for coaches to track individual results accurately. Even if stopwatches, pencils and scrap paper hadn’t come into the picture, it would have been tough for EL coach Rebecca Hefty to keep up with all the Red Eddies’ personal bests.

“They’re a young team, but they’re getting it,” Hefty said. “I’m just so happy with how hard they have worked, from the hallway practices to the jump meets over at Bates. We’re working on building that team concept. We know that February at the KVACs and states are when it counts.”

Muriel Schwinn was a top performer for the Red Eddies. The sophomore won the 55, finished second in the long jump and led a runner-up relay effort.

Emily Dodge took second in triple jump and third in 55 hurdles, both with a personal record. Carolyn Large, Alicia Large and Cassandra Hartford also set individual records in the mile.

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