GORHAM – Molly Carl decided she was going to try sky diving this summer. That she actually made her jump didn’t faze her college coach at all.

After watching Carl take risks for two years at the University of Southern Maine, George Towle is no longer surprised. “Molly is fearless,” said the man who coaches her in cross country and track. “There might even be a bit of daredevil in her. I think she’d try anything.”

Carl is a senior geography and anthropology major from York. She arrived on campus in the fall of 2010 after a freshman year at the University of Maine at Farmington. Sure, getting a degree was her first goal. Competing in track was a close second. She was a champion hurdler in high school. Great form and great speed.

How those two attributes were able to transform her into a very good college distance runner is a question she can’t answer. She finished 27th of 277 runners at the NCAA Division III national championships in Wisconsin last year. That gets you third-team All-American status.

“I just like to run. Why have I been successful? I can’t tell you.”

Towle could take credit but can’t or won’t. Beginning his 28th season at USM, he’s been recognized 10 times with Coach of the Year awards in the Little East Conference. He anticipated the points Carl would score for his indoor and outdoor track teams. Running cross country in the fall would help condition her for track.

“Coaches sometimes forget to think out of the box,” said Towle. “They have a tendency to pigeonhole their athletes. Typecast might be a better word. I was guilty of that.”

He watched Carl wander by track teammates who play soccer and joined them juggling a soccer ball from feet to knees to head. Towle marveled at Carl’s dexterity, then discovered she never played soccer.

“Her father told me when she played Little League softball or whatever it was, she was always stealing bases. That I could see. She is quick.”

Carl is also the team clown. She can mimic anyone from voice inflections to the way they walk. She, however, is an original.

At one track practice, Towle was introducing a teammate to the steeplechase while Carl was doing laps.

Suddenly she veered out of her lane and hurdled the barrier, getting her coach to think out of the box one more time. “She seems like a natural fit for the steeplechase.”

That’s for later. USM had an informal cross country dual meet with Brandeis last week. Carl won the race.

Saturday there’s the more formal season opener with the University of New England Invitational at Rotary Park in Biddeford.

“A new season is always a little scary,” said Carl. “I know I’ve got a target on my back. There were a lot of strong runners around last year and they were all undergrads. We all know each other’s strategies.

Which is a reason she’s fallen for distance running. “It’s such a gritty sport. Half of it is mental, half is physical. You’ve got to deal with pain.”

A senior with an additional semester of athletic eligibility remaining in 2013, Carl is a team captain with Morgan Beede of Augusta and Hannah Wiley of Arundel.

BOWDOIN

Tim Ryan is the interim athletic director, succeeding Jeff Ward, who stepped down in July after 14 years. Ryan is a 1998 Bowdoin graduate who was a football linebacker. In a way, Ryan has trained for the job most of his life. His father, Marty Ryan, was the respected athletic director at Wells and Kennebunk high schools until his recent retirement. The Bowdoin football team is still counting down to its opener Sept. 22 at Middlebury.

UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN MAINE

Fall baseball begins this weekend. Coach Ed Flaherty will have about 40 candidates for the 16-day season. NCAA rules permit one day of 18 innings to be played by opposing teams. USM has played the University of Maine at The Ballpark at Old Orchard Beach the last two years in a doubleheader. Many major league scouts were in attendance. USM and Maine will not play this year. Flaherty will set up intrasquad games instead. There’s no limit to those games within the 16-day season.

ST. JOSEPH’S

The men’s soccer team was picked to finish second in the Great Northeast Athletic Conference this season. The Monks won the conference championship last year.

Staff Writer Steve Solloway can be contacted at 791-6412 or at:

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