Blue Hill—The George Stevens Academy track team had a terrific season this year, coach Erich Reed said. Both boys and girls teams performed beyond expectations at the state meet in Yarmouth on June 6, where the girls placed seventh out of 31 Class C teams, and the boys placed 11th out of 30 teams. Individual GSA athletes brought home several medals, too, including two for first place.
Earlier in the season, the girls team won the Hancock County championship in a surprising and decisive victory, Reed said, and both the girls and boys teams won their first victories at the Ellsworth meet.
To top it off, Reed was recently named girls track coach of the year, an honor he shares with the students as well as assistant and volunteer coaching staff.
“It is touching, and it reflects the work of the team,” he said.
Reed said he was honored to have been picked by his peers to receive the commendation, especially since bigger, higher profile schools’ coaches usually receive the award. Being at a smaller school—and especially one without track and field facilities—makes the recognition all the more meaningful, he said.
GSA has had a strong program with strong coaching historically, Reed said, but he has worked hard to bolster student participation in recent years. “It’s the school’s team as much as possible,” he said. His vision of “a student-led, welcoming team” has become a reality, and the kids are motivated and focused, he said. Younger students have stepped up significantly, too; over 80 percent of the students who qualified at state competition were freshmen and sophomores, Reed said.
Reed credits increased participation of another kind as being critical to the track program’s culture of success: in addition to assistant coach Anne Piazza—who is doing “remarkable” work with the students in conditioning training, Reed said—a number of fellow teachers and members of the community have gotten involved as volunteer coaches. Former collegiate pole vaulter Mike Sealander has helped coach students in that event, and Brooksville resident Tony Rolfe, who has 30 years of head coaching experience, Reed said, is happy to be able to work with athletes without the hassles of head coaching responsibilities. Volunteer coach and GSA alum Veronica Slaughter has assisted with throwing events, Reed said, and local chiropractor Jody Norton has helped out in high jump and javelin. History and social studies teacher David Stearns has also contributed, Reed said.
Coaching track and field is challenging, Reed said, due to the large number of widely dispersed athletic events, and he expressed gratitude for the one-on-one time the volunteer staff provides to students.
“We have a lot of excellent coaching,” Reed said.
Kids are also being given athletic opportunities at area elementary schools such as the Blue Hill Consolidated School, which has had a track team, Reed said, and the kids who participate come to GSA with a more goal-oriented frame of mind.
“I’m hopeful that we’ll have engaged, rising freshmen athletes next year,” he said.
Looking to the future, Reed identified a priority for next year: getting more kids to work out at local facilities, Bucksport High School, for example. He is working on sorting out the logistics of transporting the students to such places, he said.
Reed will return to coaching cross country when the season starts up in the fall.