SCARBOROUGH – To reach the next competitive level in sprinting, Nicole Kirk had to make some changes. She stopped playing soccer and began running cross country in the fall to build her stamina. She changed which group of runners she practiced with, opting to run against boys instead of her Scarborough girls’ track and field teammates.

The changes worked not only for Kirk’s benefit, but also to the Red Storm’s advantage.

Kirk, the Maine Sunday Telegram girls’ indoor track and field MVP, won the Class A title in the 200 meters (26.13 seconds), finished second in the 55 dash (7.41) to Brunswick’s Alexis Dickinson (7.40), and anchored Scarborough’s 800-meter relay team to a state title, a win that secured Scarborough its seventh consecutive Class A championship.

Kirk and teammate Emilia Scheemaker combined for four individual and relay titles, and the Red Storm earned 39 additional points by placing in five other events.

“It shows how strong our team was,” Kirk said. “We don’t just have one strong person who does all of the work for us. We’re a strong team and have so much depth behind us. Everyone works together.”

Kirk focused on building her endurance over longer distances — 3.1 miles to be exact, the standard course length in cross country.

“If a sprinter’s going to be good, they’ve got to do the mileage and build up the aerobic base,” Scarborough Coach Ron Kelly said. “She set goals and ultimately it was the more intense training that helped her improve. With the cross country base, she became more fit, and the lifting was a very important aspect for her, given her strength in the 200.”

Once training for the indoor track season began, Kirk realized she wasn’t maximizing her training potential by working out solely with the girls’ team. Her sprinting coach, Jeffrey Messer, directed her and freshman teammate Morgan Rodway to train against sprinters from the boys’ team — bigger, stronger and faster training partners.

“We were the only two (girls) training with the boys,” Kirk said. “Once we started doing that and got into competition, we thought, ‘OK, we’ve run with the boys, so we can handle this. The boys are faster than everyone.’ “

Kirk began to feel the benefits of those changes during the first weeks of indoor practices when she was running sets of 200s and 400s. She felt more fluid with each stride and she wasn’t winded.

“You can run fast if you have natural talent,” Kirk said. “To be the best and have the best times, it’s really good to have the biomechanics down and the technique. It improves your times so much.”

The change in training helped Kirk lower her times in both sprints. In 2010, Kirk was third at the state meet in the 55 (7.55) and fifth in the 200 (27.05).

“I’ve never done distance events because it’s just not my strength, but it helped give me more endurance,” Kirk said. “It helped me with a lot of my technique. And it helped me because it wasn’t a stress. I didn’t feel pressure about anything, and all of that definitely carried over into my sprinting.”

Staff Writer Rachel Lenzi can be reached at 791-6415 or at:

rlenzi@pressherald.com