BATH — I’ve heard it all this spring. Some of it depresses me and inspires a fear for the future of the games I love.

High school athletes missing two or three contests at the start of a 16-game season in order to accommodate a family vacation. Others taking an unexcused absence in order to claim a choice seat in Fenway Park or TD Garden.

Parents make the case that these are once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. Maybe so. You only get one chance to be a teenager with wide eyes and a far-reaching faith in your own immortality.

But you also get only one chance — four flash-before-the-eyes years — to be an athlete and represent your community.

You might ride Space Mountain when you’re 20 or overlook the Green Monster when you’re 30. Try turning back the clock and getting back those glory days of 16 and 17. No less an authority than Bruce Springsteen already told us it isn’t happening.

And so it was with joy and appreciation that I looked into the eyes of Edward Little High School senior track and field athletes Saturday while they celebrated their contribution to two of our region’s most impressive scholastic sports streaks.

The EL girls grabbed sole possession of their sixth straight Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference championship. The boys had to share a trophy after rallying for a tie with rival Lewiston, but that was enough to reign supreme for the ninth year in a row.

Those eyes? They were puffy and red, and not from tears of joy.

The most experienced of your KVAC champions squeezed every available moment out of Friday, enjoying all of Boston’s entertainment value while on their senior trip.

“We got home at 12:30 (a.m.) A lot of us were running on about five hours sleep, and less sleep the night before,” Jaclyn Masters said. “We did amazing things if you think about how much sleep we got.”

By the 9 a.m. starting gun at McMann Field, each one had shown up armed with the cure for senioritis.

Masters and her twin sister, MaryKate, combined for 50 of the Edward Little girls’ 163 team points.

Emily Hartnett, Kelly Philbrook, Hannah Carrier and Abby Dunn each stood atop the podium.

“So many seniors won things today,” Dunn said. “I think every senior won an event.”

Dunn is the same high-honor student who just returned from Greater Moscow after competing in a World Cup Race Walk.

See, when an EL upperclassmen walks away from the team for a day or two, it really is due to a life-changing moment that can’t replicated later on.

That’s the level of commitment it takes to win a championship. Or two. Or six. Or nine.

Perhaps that’s the do-it-all, anything-you-say-coach mentality that is bred in track and field athletes, even as it disappears at an alarming rate from other obligations in sports and life.

Runners, jumpers and throwers aren’t doing this for the ink or the adulation.

Organizers refer to the KVAC championship as the largest high school sporting event in the state each year, with more than 900 students represented. Yet at any given time between noon and 5 p.m. Saturday, kids in uniform outnumbered adults in the grandstands.

Kinetics and fitness are lifelong skills. So are practice and persistence, and track serves those in an industrial strength package.

“I think we all just improved that much through the years. We’ve become the seniors that we looked up to when we were freshmen,” MaryKate Masters said. “It’s nice on both counts. We get to feel like we’re role models for our freshmen.”

Pretty good examples to us all, actually.

There’s no requesting that a regional or state championship track showcase be moved in deference to prom or a senior trip or a graduation. Baseball, softball and lacrosse times, on the other hand, are shifted frequently at this time of year.

EL could have mailed in this meet. Most of its athletes already were qualified for next Saturday’s state showcase at Windham (one that immediately precedes graduation, by the way).

To go home or go through the motions might have even made sense. It just would have gone against everything the Eddies believe in.

“Everyone’s working hard,” Hartnett said. “We’re tired, but we’re pushing through.”

That’s the attitude of a champion. Now, and in the real world.

Kalle Oakes is a staff columnist. His email is [email protected]


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