T.J. Coombs, of Albany, throws the “javelin” On left are coaches, Colleen Raymond and Mary Scanlon, both of Bethel. Rose Lincoln/Bethel Citizen

BETHEL — Mary Scanlon said the ultimate goal for her young track athletes will be to start travelling to competitions at summer track meets. She hopes her Bethel Recreation program will grow Telstar’s track program, too. For now, competing against themselves or having fun with classmates is enough for her young athletes.

On a recent Tuesday morning about 25 children have turned out in the rain to jump hurdles, pass a baton in a relay, throw “javelins” and throw “shot puts.”

They also learned to do the long jump but won’t jump today since Scanlon doesn’t want to send them home with wet dirt stuck to their arms and legs.

The adjustable hurdles are new and three lines are set up with the younger athletes jumping over 12-inch hurdles and the older ones at 21-inches. “As they gain skill and confidence they can move to a higher level,” says Scanlon.

Sophie Wakefield, 13 of Greenwood, hands the baton to Teddy Crockett, 11, of Albany at Bethel Recreation’s track program. Rose Lincoln/Bethel Citizen

Watching from behind the fence are two parents. “They love this program,” says Paige Crockett, “it stretches them to try new things.”

“But it’s terrifying,” says Renee Wakefield. As if on cue, a hurdler has a minor crash.


Before long the kids have figured out how to adjust the hurdles themselves and are trying to make them higher. Scanlon says 27″ is as high as they’ll go. But perhaps to appease them, volunteer coach Kory Kursenstjerna, jumps a 42″ hurdle. The kids go wild.

Of the jump, Emma Coombs, 12, of Albany, says, “he flew right over it and floated.” Another child says, “he runs a good youth program, too.” Kursenstjerna works across the street from Telstar at Bethel Alliance Church as the Youth and Worship pastor.

Younger children go to the field at the far end of the track with Scanlon to throw javelins that colorful and mini-sized and feel like nerfs.

Volunteer coach Colleen Raymond, of Bethel, is demonstrating how to throw a shot put from a cement throw circle. The shot puts they have used so far were softballs, but now five and six pound “real” shot puts have arrived. The kids pass them around practicing how to hold them.

“You always enter from the side or back,” says Raymond. “If you walk into the throw pit from the front that is a penalty, she explains.

Coach Colleen Raymond, of Bethel demonstrates how to throw the shot put. On left is, Teddy Crockett, and T.J. Coombs, on right. Both boys are from Albany. Rose Lincoln/Bethel Citizen

Next, “it goes under your chin and ear with your elbow out. We are going to try not spinning,” she says.


When the first few throws land with a soft thud, Olen Arsenault, 6, of Bethel is disappointed, “it didn’t go into the ground, like I have seen on T.V.” he says, referring to the animated show, Shaun the Sheep, where the shot put hits so hard it makes a hole.

“Use your whole body to throw it,” says Coach Raymond. “Rotate your hips and chest, everything.”

As practice winds down, the children receive freeze pops and t-shirts. One asks if there will be trophies. The others don’t seem to care; today was fun. They thank the coaches. A fourth coach, Rocco Gammone, of West Bethel, was not at this practice.

Scanlon says track started during COVID as a “safe” sport. With persistence, she has brought back all the rec programs. In the job since Oct. of 2020 she said the official job is just 10 hours a week, but “you put in a lot of [additional] volunteer hours.”

Scanlon is handing over the Recreation directorship to Nate Crooker to return to her pre-COVID job at Maine Adaptive.

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