Justin Gagne is done with his college career of picking up and throwing heavy objects.
But the University of Maine’s all-time leader in both the shot put and the discus does not believe he’s done competing.
“I intend to continue to compete for fun,” said the 2009 Biddeford High graduate who competed as a fifth-year senior at Maine. “I did practices the last few weeks up near 19 meters (approximately 62 feet) in the shot. I have a lifetime goal of getting into the 20 meters, and that would get you to the ‘A’ standard for the Olympic trials.”
Gagne won both the shot put and discus at the America East championships and also finished seventh in the hammer throw in his first year trying the event. He was chosen as the Most Outstanding Field Performer of the meet.
“That was definitely my goal going into that meet, to win that award,” Gagne said.
His season-best efforts of 58 feet, 63/4 inches in the shot and 177-0 in the discus came at the prestigious Penn Relays and qualified him for the NCAA Division I East preliminaries, held May 29-31 in Jacksonville, Fla.
At the NCAA East meet, Gagne placed 24th in the shot with a best throw of 58-51/4. He was 42nd in the discus with a subpar 162-9.
The top 12 in each event advanced to the national championships June 11-14 in Eugene, Oregon.
“My shot is better than my (discus),” said the 6-1, 300-pound Gagne. “I love the discus and I PR’d again this year, but I’m built more like a shot putter than a discus thrower. I have to accept the genetics and live with it.”
Gagne is realistic enough to understand that making an Olympic team is not a likely scenario – even if he does improve enough to throw the shot 65 or more feet.
“Twenty-meter throws doesn’t get you much of anything,” he said. “There’s probably 20 other guys in the U.S. throwing farther than that, but you can continue to compete into your elder years. Some of the best in the world are 35, 38 years old, and they’re still blasting it out over 70 feet.”
Gagne already has improved from a novice high school thrower to the best the Black Bears have ever had. He set the school’s indoor shot put record of 60-5 as a junior, and this spring broke his own UMaine outdoor records in the shot and discus.
Not bad for a former football player (he represented Biddeford in the 2009 Lobster Bowl) who didn’t start throwing until his junior year of high school.
By the time he was a junior at UMaine, he had earned an athletic scholarship.
“It was never really a goal to take (throwing) and go into college,” Gagne said. “It was mostly me reaching out to the (Maine) coaches because I’d already planned on attending the university. They told me I was welcome to walk on and make an attempt, and it worked out.”
SEVERAL OTHER Mainers competed at the NCAA East and West preliminaries last weekend.
Iowa State freshman Bethanie Brown of Waterville came the closest to advancing to Eugene when she finished ninth in her heat of the 5,000 meters in Fayetteville, Arkansas, with a time of 16 minutes, 19.63 seconds. She missed qualifying by two spots.
Gagne’s UMaine teammate, senior Nathaniel Meade of Waldoboro (Medomak Valley), placed 33rd in the triple jump at the East preliminaries with a best of 48-5 1/4.
Dartmouth senior Henry Sterling of South Freeport (North Yarmouth Academy) was 25th in the East 3,000-meter steeplechase (8:58.66).
Also competing in the East were Connecticut sophomore Emily Durgin of Portland (Cheverus), who finished 42nd in the 10,000 meters (36:52.41), and Purdue sophomore Matt McClintock of Athens (Madison), who was 27th in the men’s 10,000 (30:44.65).
Barnard College freshman Sophie Hulbert of Portland (Casco Bay High) was named the USA Ultimate Metro East Freshman of the Year. She was the only freshman selected to both the Metro East Division I All-Region and All-Freshman teams. Hulbert competed on the Columbia University team.
Richmond freshman Henry Babcock of Cape Elizabeth was selected to the USA Ultimate College Division Atlantic Coast Division III All-Freshman Team.
Eastern Connecticut State freshman Greg Walton of Brunswick was named the school’s Male Rookie of the Year. Walton became just the third freshman goalie in the 25-year history of the Little East Conference to earn first-team all-star honors after leading the conference in goals-against average (0.66), save percentage (.847) and shutouts (7).
The Northeast-10 Conference recently announced its Class of 2014 Hall of Fame selections. Among the honorees is Bentley University’s 2001 NCAA Division II national championship field hockey team that included 2005 graduate Jenn Walker of Lyman (Massabesic). Walker was an all-conference second-team pick in 2001 as Bentley went 22-1 to become the university’s first-ever national champion. Walker went on to be a two-year captain, play in two more NCAA title games and twice be named to the NCAA Division II Coaches All-America second team. As a senior, she was named the Division II Northeast Region Women’s Scholar Athlete of the Year and NCAA Woman of the Year for the state of Massachusetts.