As his coach tells it, Isaac Yeboah wasn’t the guy you’d have predicted as the Maine Sunday Telegram’s selection for boys’ Performer of the Year in outdoor track and field.
With Lewiston junior Isaiah Harris winning the 800 at the New England championships, Ellsworth senior Dan Curts setting a Maine record in the 2-mile and Edward Little’s Spencer Dunn winning the mile race walk at the national New Balance championships in North Carolina, there were plenty of others worthy of consideration.
But Yeboah, a senior, delivered more than one big performance to lead Cheverus High to the Class A state title after a 16-year drought. And his success seemed unlikely, given a history of physical setbacks.
“With Isaac, he might not be the first one you think of but he did the most,” said Cheverus Coach Steve Virgilio. “It was his senior year, he scored 40 points at the state meet and brought us a title. He set two state records. He’s in a select group. He’s fearless, selfless and brave.”
At the state meet, Yeboah won the 100-meter hurdles (15.08 seconds) and 300 hurdles (39.52), and was part of the Stags’ winning 400-meter (43.32, a state record) and 1,600-meter relay teams. Then, at the New England meet, he was third in the 300 hurdles (39.47) and helped Cheverus set a state-best time in the 1,600-meter relay (3:24.34, good for eighth place).
Yeboah said winning the team title is more precious than any personal honor.
“Honestly I think realizing that this would be my last season with my brother, our last high school season together, was the motivation,” said Yeboah, whose twin brother, Elijah, was his main competition in the Class A hurdles.
“We have been running together since we were 8. Every practice I knew that Elijah was pushing me and we would push the entire team as captains. And I knew everything else would follow, that it would lead us to eventually walk away with a state title.”
Yeboah said the two Maine records in the relays was a bonus.
“We definitely did not expect to break the 4-by-100 record at states. We actually went into states ranked third but we worked on our hand-offs all week,” Yeboah said. “And the 4-by-400 record at the New Englands was kind of unexpected.”
Yeboah’s third-place finish in the 300 hurdles at the New Englands also was unexpected.
He went into it ranked eighth, just making it into the fast heat. He was assigned the first lane and with a view of the entire field from the back he started chasing down other hurdlers from the gun.
It was something he wasn’t used to doing, and allowed him to earn All-New-England honors.
This winter was the first time Yeboah was healthy enough to compete in indoor track and field.
As a freshman, he had a seizure during indoor track. Doctors found he had an irregular heartbeat that has needed to be monitored.
During his sophomore year, Yeboah tore his hamstring at the first meet and had to sit out the indoor season.
In his junior year, he tore his meniscus in soccer and was sidelined indoors.
“Nobody really expected me to be that good this outdoor season, not even my coach,” Yeboah said. “I had a pretty bad (outdoor) season last year, after I tore my meniscus in soccer.”
Still Yeboah rolled into the 2014 outdoor season gunning for every gold he could win to gain glory for his team.
“Elijah and I just wanted to help the team win states no matter what it took.” he said. “I didn’t care about the individual goals as much as winning states as a team. I knew if we focused on that, everything would come with it.”
A coach for 10 years who has guided Division III All-Americans at the University of Southern Maine, Virgilio said the hardest thing in coaching is taking a great athlete and giving them confidence. That’s not a challenge with Yeboah.
“He already has it,” Virgilio said. “It’s so inspirational and cool to see. In track you can’t hide. You either give up or you push harder. For him to have that confidence naturally is just awesome.”