LEWISTON – They’re friends. They’re teammates. They’re sportsmanlike. But whenever George Foster or Jeff Lucier toes the starting line for an indoor track and field meet with Lewiston High School, there is a whole lot of pushing going on.

Take the 800 meters, for example. Foster stunned four higher-seeded runners to conquer the outdoor state championship in the event last spring. So naturally, the Blue Devils boast one of the clear favorites going into the 800 at the upcoming Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference championship (Friday evening at Bowdoin College) and Class A state meet (Monday, Feb. 19, at Bates).

Only it won’t be the senior speedster Foster, but Lucier, a junior who put himself on Maine’s middle distance road map with a fifth-place finish in the Class A indoor 800 last February.

“We don’t want to lose to each other,” said Lucier.

Lately, Lucier has fueled the same phenomenon in the high jump, where his natural success in the event put a little extra spring in the sneakers of perennial point-getter Husayn Carnegie.

Carnegie finished fifth in last year’s indoor state meet and has consistently cleared the bar at the 6-feet throughout his senior season. In last week’s final meet of the regular season, Lewiston coach Ray Putnam decided to enter Lucier in the high jump as in-house competition for the first time all winter.

“Lucier went 6-0. That’s when Carnegie decided, ‘I’m not losing to Lucier,’ and he jumped 6-2,” Putnam said. “When I got home and had a chance to go back and look at our sheets, we had 6-2, 6-0 and 5-10. That wasn’t a bad day.”

Track and field is a sport of inherent contradictions. It is often characterized by team camaraderie high above the togetherness exhibited by its stick-and-ball cousins. It’s also ruggedly individual.

That said, having two all-state caliber athletes lurking around the middle distance events is not the equivalent of having Terrell Owens and Randy Moss lined up at opposite flanks in the same football offense. The closer parallel is having both Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz in the heart of your batting order.

“Whenever I put them in the same race with each other,” said Putnam, “their times go down.”

When the most important points of the season are on the line, Foster and Lucier are almost guaranteed to put some in the bank for Lewiston. And the experiment of pitting them against each other will be over.

The longer distances are Lucier’s meal ticket. He forecasts a state championship for himself in either the 800 or 1,600 meters. And Foster is more focused on the sprint side of the score sheet these days. He desperately wants to improve upon his fourth-place finish in the 400 at last year’s indoor states.

“For indoor, I try to look more toward the 400 meters. The distance at the New England championship this year is 600. No matter what event you run in the state, they add 200,” Foster said.

Putnam believes Foster would be equally capable of breaking the two-minute barrier in the 800, but he projects Lucier as the primary threat to the indoor state record of 1:56.25, set by Sam Fletcher of Edward Little three years ago.

Foster and Lucier also are back with the 4×200 and 4×800 relay teams that set school records and earned points in the 2006 state meet. Along with Carnegie, sprinter, jumper and football star Jared Turcotte and hurdler Hussain Naji, they are the leaders of a Lewiston team that hasn’t dialed down its goals after losing five graduates to Division I college programs.

“We have a decent shot in the KVACs. I’d say we’re looking at hopefully top three in the states,” said Putnam, whose Blue Devils tied Scarborough for second behind Bonny Eagle last year. “Bangor looks really tough. I think a lot of things would have to really fall our way for us to beat Bangor.”

His stars aptly demonstrate those indelibly linked personal and team pursuits. Lucier said track helped give him personal direction after a tough freshman year.

“It’s the self-satisfaction of being able to run faster than you’ve ever run before,” Lucier said.

Foster also takes pride in his individual honors, noting that track taught him goal-setting skills he wouldn’t have learned in the classroom. But he is also cognizant of what his entire senior class has done to advance a sport that was barely on the community’s radar screen when he picked it up as a seventh-grader.

“People finally recognized Lewiston High School last year as a track program and that we weren’t a joke,” Foster said. “It’s still pretty much a town that is centered around football, lacrosse and hockey, but hopefully there is the realization that we’re also a strong team.”


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