Kameron Blanding is the new cross country and track and field coach at Central Maine Community College in Auburn. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

This year, Central Maine Community College is welcoming not only a new coach but also introducing a whole new team to campus.

Kameron Blanding will be joining the athletics department this fall to lead the cross country team and the newly minted track and field program in the spring.

The Auburn college does not have its own track, so it will instead use facilities in another part of the city at Edward Little High School. In addition, the Mustangs will not have any home meets this year. They will be participating in away meets in the United States Collegiate Athletic Association and the more local Yankee Small College Conference.

Blanding, who is originally from Kansas, comes to Auburn from North Carolina’s Montreat College. His coaching journey began while he was a student Central Christian College in Kansas after his senior year season was cut short due to a bad injury that inspired him give coaching a try.

“I still wanted to contribute to my team,” he said. “Following that injury, I decided to intern with the head coach because we were really close.”

About five days after graduating, Blanding was offered a position to coach his alma mater.

Now, at Central Maine Community College, Blanding will be tasked with forming a program from the ground up. The track and field team is new this year, and despite the challenge of building a team, he’s feeling excited instead of nervous.

Kameron Blanding, a Kansas native, is the first coach of the CMCC track and field program. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

“All the staff here at Central Maine are super supportive with athletics and (the department) growing,” he said. “There’s none of that immediate pressure that the team has to be huge and successful right now. They’re supportive.”

He added that it was “a relief” as a coach to “know that you have the support of the coworkers and your boss.”

CMCC athletic director David Gonyea is enthusiastic about Blanding’s hire.

“I think he’s ambitious, I think he’s energetic and I think he’s going to be a very good recruiter,” Gonyea said.

For his part, Blanding agrees with the athletic director’s remark about recruiting. He says that’s one of his strengths, and he is looking forward to utilizing it when building the new team. In the past, he has been able to recruit between 30 and 40 students in a single class year, but at CMCC, he isn’t as focused on the numbers.

“It doesn’t matter how fast they run or how far they jump, but what kind of culture they bring to the team,” he said. “With track recruiting, especially starting off, it’s not just about going crazy and getting whoever you can in, it’s not just getting numbers for numbers’ sake. It’s important to form relationships with athletes while recruiting them, to analyze what kind of student athlete they will be.”

Really, the new coach said, he is most focused on fostering a strong culture within both the track and the cross country programs.

“Culture is such an important thing, no matter the team,” he said. “Culture is the bedrock of everything. It will help the program grow, be successful and have a positive impact on not only the school, but the community itself.”

Blanding also believes that recruiting will be easier because Central Maine Community College is “easy to brag about, being so affordable, being such a top-notch school.”

Last year, the cross country team did not have the opportunity to participate in any meets due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Between the cancellation of the season and the newness of the track and field program, Blanding said that athletes on both teams are “just going to be relieved to be competing.”

Besides practicing, the coach wants to focus on building a relationship with his athletes, and said not doing so would be a “failure on my part.”

“Making sure I can give them a good enough experience is important,” he said. “Not just going through the motions with them. I want to form relationships.”

Overall, Gonyea has high hopes for the two teams and the impact that the student-athletes can have on the college and the community.

“I’d like to see them build camaraderie and just be good students, solid student-athletes, that go to class, do the work, and represent the school in a good manner,” he said.

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