After finishing a close second to Lewiston at last year’s outdoor state track meet, the Edward Little coaching staff figured this season would be a rebuilding one.

Gone to graduation were multiple-event scorers Nate Chantrill and Garner LaValley. More importantly, the Red Eddies had no one to fill in for sprinter Colby Brooks, who scored 38 points with three first-place finishes and a second at the state meet.

To the rescue came John Alexander.

The converted baseball player is the top seed in this weekend’s Class A State Track and Field Championship at Morse High School for the 100- and 200- meter dashes and runs the anchor leg for the top-seeded 400 relay team. He’s also expected to run a leg on the 1,600 relay unit.

The senior had earned two varsity letters for the Red Eddie baseball team as its lead-off hitter. In his sophomore year, Alexander batted .380 while playing left field. Last year he moved to third base and came up with a pair of stellar plays in the playoffs against Brunswick. He was expected to be a captain for the EL nine in his senior season.

That plan changed this winter.

“I was all about baseball,” says Alexander. “I had always gone to baseball camps in Beverly, Mass. I was going to go out for indoor track and get ready for baseball. Then I found out I was really fast.”

So did track coach Ryan Laroche and the rest of the coaching staff.

“I knew he was quick,” says Laroche, “but I didn’t know how that quickness would translate into track. We knew within two weeks we had something special. He’s naturally fast.”

Alexander went through the regular indoor season undefeated in the 55 and 200-meter dashes. At the state meet he finished second in the 55 and fourth in the 200.

All of a sudden, he had a choice to make. And it wasn’t an easy one.

He went to the first day of tryouts for both outdoor track and baseball. He had hoped a taste of both sports would help him make the choice. Instead, it made it even tougher.

“That was the toughest decision I’ve ever made,” says Alexander. “It took me a month to make the decision. I couldn’t even sleep. I love baseball, but I found something I could excel at.”

Alexander looked at both LaRoche and EL baseball coach Scott Annear for advice in choosing his path for the spring.

“(Annear) just wasn’t my coach,” says Alexander. “He’s my friend. He’s helped me get through high school. He wanted me to follow my heart.”

LaRoche also gave him the same advice.

“We knew we’d love to have him,” says LaRoche, “but we didn’t want to steal him from another team. I thought he’d choose baseball.”

Instead, Alexander elected to take up track, and that has made all the difference.

“With John coming over, it put us over the top,” says LaRoche, whose team is one of the favorites along with Bangor and Gorham this weekend.

“He’s been a great role model for the other kids,” says LaRoche. “It’s the intangibles he brings as well. When we do our form running, he’s the one telling the others what’s next and he’s the first to pull another kid aside and help him out.”

Alexander’s work ethic also stands out. It’s something he brought over from the baseball diamond courtesy of Annear.

“He really gave me that great work ethic,” says Alexander. “All he would preach was hustle, hustle, hustle and his favorite saying was ‘let’s put hay in the barn today.'”

He also credits LaRoche and assistant track coach Dan Campbell for his success on the track.

“With our squad we’ve got great coaches,” he says. “They get the most out of us. I was running on raw speed. They got me to hold my form with run accelerators to make sure my elbows went straight up and down and to hold my speed down the stretch.”

Since the end of the winter season, Alexander shaved over one second off his 200 time. At last weekend’s KVAC championships he ran at a 22.57-second clip. In the 400 relay, he took a clean handoff and exploded away from the pack to help the Eddies win going away.

“As the season’s gone along,” says LaRoche, “he’s gotten faster. The weather’s gotten warmer and he’s not worried about muscle pulls. The kid’s level of confidence seems to rise with every race and it’s great to have him on the team. He brings a desire that we didn’t have.”

This weekend, Alexander’s desire is to help lead the Red Eddies to the state championship. Even though he hasn’t run a 400 race all season, he’d like a shot at opening up the 1,600 relay team, which is the final event Saturday. It’s the attitude he still has from being the table setter at the top of the baseball lineup.

“If the state championship is on the line,” says Alexander, “I want to be the guy to take (the baton) out for the first leg.”

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