AUBURN   The spring season came early Monday morning.

For the Edward Little girls’ track team, the first day of the spring season came before the sun had risen. Their first practice was at 5:30 a.m. That practice was followed by another session at 2:30 p.m. after school.

“I think it’s a really great thing,” said senior Avery Chisholm. “I like getting up that early. It wakes you up. We usually do team bonding and get used to warmups with the new kids that haven’t been on the team. So it allows us to bond and get things on track.”

The Red Eddies have done the early-to-rise regimen before, both in outdoor and during the indoor season.

“It’s sort of the coaches way to shake the people who aren’t completely dedicated to it,” said senior Ayumi Ranucci. “So it’s great to see all these people come to practice at 5:30 a.m.”

While pitchers and catchers reported for the spring season last week, Monday was the official start of the spring season for all teams.

This season has a sense of normalcy but some change for the Red Eddies. It is the first time in over a decade that Rebecca Hefty won’t be the head coach of the program. Calvin Hunter, who has been the indoor coach the past three seasons, steps into that role this spring with a new coaching staff.

“I’d be lying if I said it didn’t feel any different not having Tara Eretzian and Rebecca Hefty here,” said Hunter, who still teaches with both during the school day. “They’ve been a huge part of the program for so long. I don’t feel like I’m on an island or anything, but you definitely miss them. It’s fun to be working with a fresh and new group of coaches. You don’t have the veteran coach you can ask the questions that you normally ask, but that doesn’t mean I don’t do that during the day.”

It has been over a month since the end of the indoor season. That means the EL girls  are working out the rust from between seasons.

“It’s great to be back,” said senior Crystal Labonte. “We’ve had a couple weeks off. I haven’t done too much. So it’s nice to actually be doing stuff.”

The coaches encourage athletes to stay active during the break, but that can be a challenge after a long season. Even though the girls were enjoying the first day of practice inside and running the halls of the school, it was a chance for the team to start building together.

“It’s hard to get the motivation to work out on your own,” said senior Lexi Clavet. “So coming together and working out really helps with the motivation. “

The EL girls finished 15th overall in the Class A state meet last year but have great potential with this group.

“I’m excited for a good season,” said Hunter. “From our underclassmen base to our upperclassmen base, we’re a little shorter in our upperclassmen, but the talent down below is huge. If it doesn’t happen this year, it will in the years to come.”

Upstairs in a different hallway, the EL boys track team was starting its season. They didn’t do the 5:30 practice in the morning but do have Ryan LaRoche returning as coach. He did not coach the indoor team this winter, juggling a hectic schedule that included family and working on his master’s degree, as well as other commitments.

“I was just spinning plates,” said LaRoche. “I couldn’t even get to meets. I didn’t have time. I finally got to a state meet and was like ‘Oh, this is what I’ve been missing.'”

Having their coach back to start the outdoor season gave the EL boys a sense of familiarity from the start.

“It’s nice to have him back again,” said senior Roger Charest. “It was definitely an adaptive period for the team, especially for the seniors and juniors after having him the last three or four years. I think the indoor season went well. It’s nice to have him back and the whole staff back. You just start connecting a lot better. So the season is already starting off on a high note.”

The boys are excited to have over 80 athletes signed up this spring. That’s well above the 40 they had last year. EL finished 11th in the Class A state meet last spring.

“It’s nice to have the big team back,” said Charest. “I remember freshman year having had this amount.”

Though LaRoche had to leave practice early for a class, the Red Eddies were put through their paces and even got some outdoor time.

“It’s nice and cool, especially after being indoors,” said Charest, of running two miles outside. “That’s part of indoor season that’s not so great. You only have the hallways. You don’t get to run on the track.”

Across the river, the Lewiston tennis teams were outside getting their first swings of the season in — even though they had no nets on the tennis court.

“We were happy to come out,” said Lewiston girls’ coach Anita Murphy, who hoped to have nets up today but thought not having them actually allowed the girls to just swing away. “I think it was good that the girls were just hitting the ball. That’s all I wanted them to do and get the feel for it.”

Murphy was starting her 35th year as the Blue Devils’ mentor. She was enthused about this season as most any other.

“It really is exciting,” said Murphy. “I was really wondering how many girls would come out this year. We did lose five from last year. I’m just really enthusiastic about this whole year because of how many girls showed up.”

Murphy had 29 girls sign up to play. That will make it a challenge for her. Lewiston doesn’t have a JV team and Murphy doesn’t want to cut players.

“With only four courts, it makes it hard,” said Murphy. “I’ve got to find things for them to do while managing my varsity team. They’re promising and good players. I can see I’ve got something to work with. If they want to be here, I want to be their coach.”

The Lewiston girl’ lost in the regional final last year and will have to replace some talent from that team. Murphy has both veteran players and girls that have hardly ever played before. She said she could see the girls learning and picking things up quickly Monday. They’re a coachable and fun group —  already finding time to tease their coach.

“I could tell right away that they’re going to enjoy this,” said Murphy.


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