Buckfield track and field coach Annette Caldwell, second row, center, is surrounded by her team Monday at Leavitt Area High School’s track, where the Bucks are practicing once a week this season. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

When she isn’t teaching math and world studies at Buckfield Junior/Senior High School, Annette Caldwell is recruiting for the track and field squad.

Six of the 16 athletes on last year’s team either graduated or moved away, but the Bucks’ numbers have still managed to double to 32 this spring.

That’s a large jump from having just one athlete, Naudia Westley, in 2012.

“It’s Caldwell,” senior Zach Shields said. “She talks everyone into it. She pretty much wants to pull the potential out of everybody, whether it’s in school or something different. That’s all it is. She just gets the word out, and at least when you do it, you’re trying. That’s all that matters.”

Shields is one of four athletes who decided to try track and field after finding out Buckfield wasn’t going to field its own baseball team this spring (and instead joined a co-op with Oxford Hills).

“There is no team this year so I decided to transfer over and do track, do something different,” Shields said. “Ms. Caldwell was confident in my abilities from baseball, so mostly throwing events, but I will also do some of the sprinting events. No distance, though.”

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Caldwell’s confidence in the athletes and her positivity are linchpins in the culture she’s attempting to cultivate. 

“We had such success last year, the independence and the positive attitude, it was fun,” Caldwell, who is in her seventh year coaching the Bucks, said. “… It’s just fun here … I am excited for us to continue to build this culture of supportiveness, competitiveness and have people recognize Buckfield and that they’ve got something going on. That’s what I am hoping for.”

Sophomores Nolan Keene and Justin Lucas say that the atmosphere around the team last season is a key reason that participation has grown. 

“Caldwell is a great coach and people have seen how much fun we’ve had and they wanted to try it out,” Keene said.

“I think it’s the team’s positivity,” Lucas added. “They saw the team being so positive and they wanted to try it out.”

One of Buckfield’s new athletes is Giulia Battistella, a foreign exchange student from Italy.

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Battistella said that she did some track and field when she was in middle school, but that it was “nothing official.” Having Caldwell as a teacher this year convinced Battistella to join the team. Now, she’s ready to compete in hurdles, the long jump and relays. 

“I know Ms. Caldwell and I know she is a great person and great coach,” Battistella said. “I know she can help me reach some goals and do this good.”

Cameron Durgin is a senior thrower who is entering his third track and field season. Last year, he finished fifth in the shot put and discus at the MVC South championship meet.

He said that being on a track and field team at a small school helps the experience. 

“(The newcomers have) heard more about it and have heard how much success we’re having,” Durgin said. “It’s nice because with a small school you know everyone on the team. You talk to them more, you see them more, and at a big school you’re like, ‘Oh, that’s the first time I’ve seen that person.’”

Caldwell is excited the potential of the the athletes on this year’s team, which will practice at Leavitt Area High School’s outdoor track.

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“It really comes down to the track community is the best,” Caldwell said. “(Leavitt coach Jamie) Juntura is awesome for letting us work here (at Leavitt High School once a week), the athletes that help during meets, it’s different from other sports where you’re kind of trained to hate the opponent.”

Mya Austin returns for her sophomore season and figures to be a top sprinter in the MVC, according to Caldwell, while freshman Brittany Carrier is slated to have a big debut season in the distance events.

“We’ve got a freshman coming in who I think will qualify for MVCs in the first meet in the 400,” Caldwell said of Carrier. “She runs distance. Then we’ve got some throwers, a good group of throwers who should do really well, and I think we’ll have strong relays.”

The Bucks’ first full track meet of the season is Tuesday at Mountain Valley (the jumpers and throwers have a meet at Lisbon on Friday).

Caldwell is interested to what the Bucks accomplish this spring.

“Who knows what we can do,” Caldwell said. “We want to win some meets, but we have newness and have a lot of athletes.”

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