Mt. Blue’s Preston Ross clears hurdles during a race. Submitted photo

Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a series of stories about the effects of the cancellation of the spring sports season.

Mt. Blue senior Laura Gunter enrolled in a 16-hour online course to fight off boredom and isolation from the COVID-19 quarantine.

Ethan McIntosh, Preston Ross and Laura Gunter and Mt. Blue outdoor track coach Kelley Cullenberg enjoy each other’s company during a track meet. Submitted photo

Teammate Preston Ross takes long bike rides as he mulls his future, and Ethan McIntosh is finishing up his online courses at the University of Maine at Farmington in between runs on quiet, country roads.

All three Mt. Blue outdoor track standouts have learned to cope with a pandemic that stole their thunder.

“They are all so different, but they all have great leadership skills,” Mt. Blue coach Kelley Cullenberg said. “They are down to earth. They can excel, but they don’t boast necessarily. They are pretty humble.

“Yeah, Preston was super excited when he set the school record (in hurdles) and then broke it,” she added, “but I didn’t see him walking into the wrestling room where we begin practice every day looking down on anybody. I think they all have great perspectives and leadership that they can offer the younger kids.”

BUSY BODY

Gunter, who threw the shot put and discus and competed in 100-meter dash and the long, jump, became the first woman in the state to successfully complete the Northeast Safe Logger Certification. She will continue taking online courses for the first year before making a full-time commitment to a college.

Through the Foster Career and Technical Educational Center at Mt. Blue, she completed the course.

Mt. Blue’s Ethan McIntosh keeps his distance during a track meet. Submitted photo

“I just found out I was the first girl in the state to complete it,” she said. “It involves forestry at Foster Tech. I wanted to do something that is outdoors and active. I love being active at something I really do enjoy. 

“(The course) covers a bunch of things like safety, hazards (in everyday living),” she said. “I did take it because I was intrigued by what it exactly was, but it was mostly to cope because you can’t really go out and do anything. It is really something nice to have on a resume. When the quarantine thing happened, I really had nothing else better to do with my free time.”

Learning to lay low during the pandemic has made her appreciate her friends and the activities she was involved in at Mt. Blue.

“I’ve missed a lot of school dances. I missed my favorite sport and like this year, your senior year, you are supposed to enjoy it,” Gunter said. ““It (track team) is such a wonderful atmosphere and it is positive and wonderful. Last year, I just got the school record in the discus. So I was looking to rebeat my school record. For long jump, I just kept progressing through the years so I’ve been looking to forward to this year. I hoped to keep going up in my distance of jumping.”

Cullenberg knows Gunter’s passions were in the field events — the shot put and the discus — but Cullenberg was also impressed with the senior’s versatility as a sprinter.

“She is just a go-getter,” Cullenberg said, “and she is so determined. Case in point, her sophomore year, she decided to try cross country. Her shins didn’t work in her favor so she tried and she put her heart into it. Every run, for the most part, after a certain distance, was pretty painful for her.” 

Cullenberg was impressed with Gunter’s determination to stick it out most of the cross country season despite the pain in her shins.

GOING THE DISTANCE

Ross, a successful hurdler who is also a long, triple and high jumper, looks to the open road on his bike as he considers his future after graduation.

“I set the school record for 110 hurdles a couple of years ago,” Ross, whose upbeat attitude is infectious, said. “Last year, I had some knee issues and I had some physical therapy, so I was kind of looking forward to this year just as my last hoorah. I just kind of like to prove myself against other schools.”

Mt. Blue’s Laura Gunter gets ready to launch the shot put during a track meet. Submitted photo

“I would say Preston and Ethan were kind of diamonds in the rough,” Cullenberg said. “Preston had a little bit of a name going into the season last year obviously because he broke the school record and broke it again — and that was his sophomore year — and came close to doing it again last year.

Cullenberg pointed out McIntosh was fortunate to have stability with one coach — herself — whereas Ross experienced several hurdles coaches.

“With each coach, there is a different format, a different style, different workouts and that is sometimes hard for kids to adjust and adapt to,” she explained. “Ross seems to still have good seasons.”

Ross was looking forward to his senior year and ending it by competing in outdoor track, which he calls  “the fun part.” He has been accepted to Eastern Maine Community College in Bangor, but might relocate to Florida and try his hand in construction.

But going to a big college is out of the question for Ross.

“I don’t want to be in debt; I want to start my life,” he said. “I am into cars, too, and I wouldn’t mind getting into an automotive field as a welder.”

But he admits he was upset and frustrated when Maine citizens were ordered to stay put and don masks to slow the progress of COVID-19.

“Definitely training and eating very well,” he explained. “I worked on my diet all year to get my body in physical shape. I worked at the movie theater, but that obviously closed down.”

“I am definitely disappointed, though,” he added. “I would like to get the whole economy going again, I guess, but at the same time, I don’t want my grandparents to die. I will definitely miss the school in general and missing the social aspect of it.” 

GO WEST YOUNG MAN

McIntosh is completing his online classes at UMF and thinking about Purdue University — where he will be studying aviation to become a commercial pilot.

“My plan right now is start flight training right as I go to college and then, after four years, make my way to the airlines,” said McIntosh, whose father earned his wings as a pilot for the United States Air Force and is now a commercial pilot.

The senior’s main focus was the 400 run and the four-by-four relay team, but he also helped out by competing in the 800.

Cullenberg was stunned and proud of the way McIntosh came on in the 400 the past season.

“He is a hard worker and dedicated,” she said. “He took so much time off of his 400 between his regular season and KVACs that we were all like ecstatic. He just took off seconds. When it’s second, it is like where did that come from. He had put the time to have that happen. He just had an amazing end of the season last year.”

“My friends and I were planning for this to be our big year,” McIntosh said. “We have a four-by-four team…and we were all kind of, at least this winter, really focusing on trying to get ourselves in the best shape possible to have a super memorable senior year.

“The disappointment of this actually not happening is definitely there,” he added. “A lot of us have been working with coach Kelley since elementary school.”

The past season, McIntosh took sixth place in Class B states.

“I was really trying to push up to try to bring that up a couple of marks at least this season and that is in my main event — the 400,” he said. “In the state meet, I got a time of :52.84. At least that one specific race for me I cut my time by little more than a second. I was hoping to push more this season.”

McIntosh has been taking all his courses at UMaine-Farmington instead of at Mt. Blue when the coronavirus struck.

“They told us that they (UMF) was completely cancelling, with the university moving everything online,” he said. “I thought it was just crazy. My first reaction was like, ‘Oh, this is an overreaction. I don’t think we should be doing this.’ But a few weeks later, it spread completely through the U.S. It was the entirely the right decision to make. This decision is saving lives.

“One of the things I miss the most is having my actual physical classes with people…and actually interacting with other people,” he added. “I just hope people continue to practice social distancing so we can get this thing over with as soon as possible.”


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.