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Rivalries are fun in any sport, especially in track and field.
When the Brewer Witches and Bangor Rams go at it in the Eastern Maine Indoor Track League, there is usually a championship feeling in the air.
The Brewer and Bangor girls have dominated the EMITL the last decade, as they’ve combined to win all but one league championship meet (Hampden Academy, 2001) since 1996.
That isn’t expected to change this winter as the two teams appear to be the frontrunners for league supremacy.
The two teams will meet for the first time on Dec. 29, going up against Lawrence of Fairfield, Mt. Blue of Farmington, Winslow, Bucksport, Central of Corinth and Foxcroft.
Brewer ended Bangor’s four-year championship reign last winter, and after losing only four EMITL championship meet-scoring athletes to graduation, Brewer has a solid nucleus returning.
The Witches have a strong senior class, led by Kira Giroux, Erika Cote and Mackenzie DeGraff in the sprints, Kaitlin Noyes and Alison Keane in the pole vault and distance runners Katie Snow, Brooke Madden, Caitlyn Wilson and Ashley Geiser.
Noyes is one of the league’s most versatile athletes, as she’s also tough in the 400 and 800.
“We have a very experienced team, a lot of motivation so I think we’ll be able to go pretty far this year,” said Giroux, the defending conference champ in the 400 and 200.
Key newcomers include freshman Sara Chavarie in the distance events and senior Kayla Triplett, who had participated in cheerleading the last three winters.
“We definitely have a lot of experience so that’ll definitely benefit us,” Giroux said. “We’re excited to see what the newcomers can do.”
The Witches also welcome back sophomore Michelle Haluska, EMITL champ and state runner-up in the 2-mile last season.
Giroux and Cote will be key components on Brewer’s 4×220 relay team, which owns the league record.
The Witches will have to replace two graduated seniors from that quartet, which shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
“There’s definitely going to be some competition to see who will win over those spots and its really up to the fastest person and who can run the fastest time,” said Cote, who will also be a key in the hurdles for Brewer.
Giroux is expecting to crack the 1-minute barrier in the 400 this year, and running against the likes of KVAC powers Waterville and Brunswick should be beneficial to the team.
“It’ll get us more prepared for states and more prepared to [do well in] Easterns,” Cote said.
DeGraff won co-EMITL Top Performer last winter with her triumphs in the 55 and long and triple jumps while the Witches will look for a breakout season from senior Chelsea Gillies in the sprints.
“She’s been working really hard since freshman year, she’s always been keeping up with us at practice,” Cote said.
Pole vaulter Keane is coming off an outdoor campaign in which she qualified for the New England championships.
Bangor matches up extremely well with the Witches, and will look to counter Brewer’s depth in the running events with its own in the field.
“We have a really strong team all around and so does Brewer so it should be interesting,” said senior shot putter Cote Theriault, who sparks a talented corps of Rams’ throwers.
Theriault, Erika Francis and Erin Nichols headline Bangor’s shot putting tandem.
Other top scorers returning for the Rams are junior Brittney Chapman in the sprints and seniors Dee Wilbur in the hurdles, Kendra Lenz in the sprints and jumps, Jen Tsang in the pole vault and Katie Porter in the sprints and middle distances.
Wilbur and Chapman are coming into this season on waves of momentum after Wilbur finished second in the 110 hurdles at the Class A outdoor championships and Chapman fourth in the 400.
“It does make me more confident but at the same time I’m trying to work even harder just to get back to that level,” said Wilbur, who has visions of breaking the nine-second barrier in the 55 hurdles this year.
Like Brewer’s Giroux, Chapman has lofty goals in the 400.
“Either in indoor or outdoor I want to break a minute for the 4, and in indoor my goal’s to break 27 in the 200,” Chapman said.
Chapman, Lenz and Giroux will face plenty of individual competition in the third regular-season meet when Waterville and Brunswick come to Orono.
Chapman and Giroux will get to sprint against Brunswick star Kristin Slotnick and Lenz will measure herself in the jumps against Shelby Tuttle of Waterville.
In fact, the Purple Panthers will partake in the Rams’ opening meet Dec. 19.
“I think that just bringing them up is going to make the competition so much better,” said Lenz, who may give the hurdles a shot this year in addition to her trademark events, the 55, and long and triple jumps.
Porter, a 400 specialist who participated in cross country for the first time in her career, should see her times drop as well.
“She’s really progressed a lot, its going to be great to see how she does this year,” Theriault said.
Other key athletes include Kendall Lunn, Chelsea Pratt and Rachel Huber in the distance events.
Wildcats on the run
Last winter’s 6-12 record was unacceptable for the Presque Isle girls basketball team.
With a veteran nucleus and most of their corps coming off a run to the Class B state soccer championship game, all signs could point to a better outlook for the Wildcats this winter.
“The sky’s the limit, so we’ll see what happens,” said senior forward Sarah Porter after Presque Isle opened its season with a road victory over Old Town Saturday.
Coach Jeff Hudson’s club has a solid senior class led by Porter, shooting guard Kayla Legassie and forward Caitlyn Esancy to complement freshmen backcourt standouts Chelsea Nickerson and Kayla Richards.
“Last year wasn’t a lot of fun but Sarah’s been there, Kayla’s been there and Caitlyn Esancy played at Fort Fairfield so she knows what its like to go to the tournament,” said Hudson.
Esancy transferred from Fort Fairfield to Presque Isle her junior year but didn’t play basketball last winter.
“We love her, she’s awesome, she works really hard and she adds a lot. I’m glad she’s on the team,” Porter said.
Nickerson and Richards will likely end up playing pivotal roles in PI’s backcourt.
“Last year we had Sarah [at the point] and she’s more of a shooter so having [them] bring up the ball is a lot easier so we can get shots off easier,” said Legassie.
With not a lot of height to speak of, the Wildcats will look to wear opponents down with their athleticism on a nightly basis, which was the case against Old Town, as their fast- break attack and defensive quickness wore down the Coyotes.
“We’re going to be a fast- paced team, that’s why we’re very active pushing it up fast,” Legassie said.
Legassie is a force on both ends of the floor.
“She has so much energy, she makes so many things happen and she’s so aggressive,” Hudson said.