Steve Virgilio, Lewiston High School’s indoor track coach, runs over the drills for the team on Christmas Eve in the hallways of the school. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Lewiston High School found itself without an indoor track coach with a week before the track season started. 

The Blue Devils found Steve Virgilio just in time, and the Blue Devils have prospered in the early season.

The boys team has won two of the team’s three meets with a runner-up finish, as well. The girls team has finishes of fourth, third and second so far and both teams show promise, in part to Virgilio’s experience and methods. 

Carolyn Court, Virgilio’s assistant coach and long-time assistant of former coach Paul Soracco, said she’d only stay on the staff if she felt it was the right coach coming in. Virgilio was that coach. 

“Some people want a clean slate and some people say, ‘I’ll take whatever you’ve got and you’ve been here before,’” Court said. “That felt comfortable.” 

Court said that Virgilio is organized, prepared and has high expectations for the talented team that he inherited. 

“There’s a lot of excitement, a lot of energy,” Court said. “He has a lot of expectations for them and they’re meeting the expectations. He’s encouraging them to try things they’ve never done before like sprinters going into hurdles, people trying high jump. Just doing things they’ve never done before, it’s kind of his mantra. He’s really organized. The athletes are learning new vocabulary which is kind of fun.”

Virgilio having athletes try things they may not have done before comes from his background as a decathlete. 

At Cheverus High School, Virgilio competed in the decathlon as a junior then went on to compete in the event at Holy Cross in college, where he went on to become the New England champion. It was in college where he realized he wanted to make track and field his career. 

After coaching collegiately, then at Portland and Cheverus High Schools, Lewiston’s situation was an easy choice. 

“I just want to make a difference in track and field,” Virgilio said. “There is so much potential and, to be honest, I enjoy coaching any athlete, anywhere. Here there are a lot of people and so hopefully we can get more people out because this is a great team with a lot of potential.”

As the season nears the unofficial halfway mark around the holidays, Lewiston has had great performances all over, on both teams. 

Shukri Dekow, a freshman at Lewiston, has been maybe the biggest surprise for the Blue Devils. She has taken nearly a whole second off of her 55 meter hurdles time, down from 10.02 to 9.26, a top-five mark in the state, according to Virgilio. The freshman also has jumped 34-4.5 in the triple jump in her first meet every competing in the event. 

“She’s a star,” Virgilio said of Dekow.

The girls team also has sophomore sprinter and jumper Amelia Wedderburn, as well as throwers Sydney Roy and Benedict Citenga all winning early-season events. 

On the boys side, Abdirazak Abukar has cemented himself as one of the top sprinters in the state as a sophomore, while fellow sophomore Nigel Katende is one of the state’s top jumpers. 

The boys also have throwers Jordan Carter and Corbin Martel already throwing over 40 feet. 

“Both teams are talented,” Virgilio said. “Just over the first five weeks and seeing the kids change and adapt and be open to my communication I can see real progress. That’s the most exciting thing, they’re willing to learn and that’s why I am here. Seeing that from so many of them is unbelievable.”

Lewiston was an easy choice for Virgilio, who will also be coaching the outdoor track team, because of the atmosphere and the situation the school is in. 

“The number of people at this school and community, there’s potential to do big things,” Virgilio said. “Everywhere I go you want to keep opening doors for the athletes and the community. When you have a place where people are open to it and there’s more numbers then there is more opportunity and chances.”

And while Court knew that Virgilio was the right person for the job, Virgilio knows how crucial his assistant has been to the season and his integration to the team.

“I told her she’s one of the best assistants I have ever had.” Virgilio said. “There are two major categories of people trying to help you: one is that they’re experienced and understand it and have a passion for it, which she does, and the other is they understand you and communicate with you and she does that well, too. It works out very well.”

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