OK, it’s a huge misstep. The Lewiston High School junior is well-versed in soccer and tennis, two sports that constantly demand quick bursts of energy.

Indoor track and field sounded like a great way to pass the time and stay in shape during the winter. But surely there would be a time of transition and learning the formalities of racing, right?

“When she started out, I thought she was maybe she was our third-best sprinter from watching workouts, because we go a long time without having a meet,” Lewiston coach T.J. Niles said.

Her first-ever race was a 55-meter dash. Kendall smashed through the Class A state meet qualifying standard as if it were the paper on which those numbers are written.

Next up were the 200 and 4×200 relay. She was a natural at those, too.

Niles later decided to let his newest discovery try the more demanding 400, on the heels of what essentially was a nine-day break due to family commitments during the holiday season.

Even though she hit the proverbial wall about 50 meters from the finish, Kendall ran the second-fastest time in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference all season.

Then this past Saturday at Colby College, in only her second time ever running the 40o, Kendall smashed the school record. She was part of a record time in the 4×200, as well.

“I’m surprised,” Kendall said. “I talked to my athletic director and my gym teacher and my friends, and they all told me I’d be good at it. I’ve always liked running and racing.”

It would have been hard for any of those giving that gentle push to envision how good Kendall would be, or how quickly.

Not including Saturday’s meets, Kendall’s times in the 55 and 400 and her team’s rate in the 4×200 all rank in the top 10 in the state. Her clip in the 200 is 13th best.

Kendall’s times rank second (400), third (55, 4×200) and fourth (200) in the KVAC, all in hot pursuit of Messalonskee senior Amanda Knight.

“She sees Knight is so far out there, but I’m like, don’t worry about it. She has so much more experience. She graduates and maybe (Kendall) will be the No. 1 girl next year,” Niles said. “I’m always saying how nice it is to have somebody to chase. It makes you better.”

Chasing comes naturally to Kendall, of course.

“Track is different. In soccer you’re running to the ball. In this you’re running to the finish line and you just have to push your hardest,” Kendall said. “Of course, everyone else is like, ‘Oh, my God, running.'”

Niles’ sprint program has been an adjustment for Kendall.

She runs an estimated two miles of start-and-stop at practice each day, plus acceleration drills.

Much of the training she missed in late December was of the anaerobic or “lactolerant” variety.

“It will be interesting to see what will happen when we start tapering her,” Niles said. “When you’re new to track and field, there’s a lot of muscle soreness that they’re not used to. You get to a state that you’re tired and sore all the time, but then it starts to go away. When we taper your workouts are cut in half. You get longer rest. It’s so much better. You have to remind the people who haven’t done it before.”

There are other minor disturbances.

Kendall wears an ankle brace in the aftermath of a persistent soccer injury. It may cost her the blink of an eye in the 55, a race that’s finished in under seconds. She’s also still getting accustomed to using a starting block.

Despite the learning curve, Kendall keeps whittling fractions of seconds off her times in almost every meet.

Her goal to score points in all four events at the state meet appears within reach. Doing so in the KVAC championship seems a mere formality.

And she’s no one-season wonder, either. Niles can count Kendall as an official convert, outdoor track included.

“Oh definitely,” she said. “I’m going to cut out tennis.”


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