YORK — The York High boys’ track and field team has a strong tradition of recruiting new members, at least among underclassmen.

Three Class B state titles in four years will do that for you.

But when senior Alex Gutierrez decided to come out for track this spring for the first time, it wasn’t to be part of a dynasty. Gutierrez simply wanted to challenge himself with a new experience.

Likewise for York senior Zack Gauthier. He decided to give outdoor track a try to gain a better understanding of the training done by sprinters – research, of sorts, for his future in sports medicine.

Coach Ted Hutch said Gutierrez, who played football and basketball, and Gauthier, who played soccer and basketball, are the exception to the rule in high school sports.

“You don’t see it very often,” said Hutch, a track coach for 25 years. “Usually (seniors are) set in their ways by then.”

Longtime athletic directors agree: It’s unusual for seniors to come out for a new sport in the spring.

Gary Stevens has been an athletic director for 19 years, the past eight at Thornton Academy. He can’t recall a first-time senior playing a spring sport.

Stevens said it would be challenging to make the cut on a varsity team as a first-time senior. The main reason seniors don’t come out for a new sport in the spring of their final year is because they are winding down toward graduation.

Stevens said fewer seniors play spring sports than other students. There are 356 athletes on the sports rosters at Thornton Academy this spring, and just 16 percent are seniors.

“Graduation usually occurs before the spring sports season is over,” he said. “I think many view that as the final act. I think it’s always been that way.”

Falmouth Athletic Director Cooper Higgins, an athletic director for 27 years, agreed. Higgins said the phenomenon of the “senior slump,” when seniors take a lackadaisical attitude toward school, isn’t any different today than generations ago.

He said a first-time senior on a spring sports team is an anomaly.

“Well, we don’t see it very often, I can guarantee you that,” Higgins said.

“I just think kids get going in one direction and it almost eliminates the possibility of trying something new.”

Justin Zukowski was one of those rare students last year. Now a guard on the Bates College basketball team, Zukowski had success playing basketball and football at Portland High. Then, in his senior year, after he was accepted at Bates, he decided to try baseball to challenge himself – and he made the cut. Zukowski hadn’t played baseball since the eighth grade.

“It was a big leap from Babe Ruth and middle-school ball to play at such a higher level,” Zukowski said. “The best thing about it, for the rest of my life I can say I played high school baseball. I can talk about it with people who played. I’m happy I played just to be able to say I did.”

Zukowski said a friend on the baseball team encouraged him to try out, but more than anything he wanted to prove to himself he could play.

Embracing a challenge is what motivated Gutierrez and Gauthier to come out for the York track team.

While each had a friend encouraging them to join the team, it was the idea of learning a new sport that lured them out to compete.

“I know it can be hard to stay in shape in college. There is so much to do and so many people to hang out with. This can get me into a routine,” said Gauthier, who will attend Wake Forest. “I want to stay in shape so I can do better in sports medicine, in injury prevention. I’ll be able to relate to more athletes.”

Meanwhile, Gutierrez, who also is a member of an a cappella group at York, said he’s motivated by new experiences. The starting center on York’s football team, Gutierrez decided to try the throwing events, despite the steep learning curve in the shot put and discus.

“I have to learn to jump backwards on one leg. I have to be able to shift my body in ways I never have,” Gutierrez said during the second week of practice.

“I’m much better than when I started. I think to get good at something new might be useful in my future.”

At Deering High, two seniors made a pact to try a new sport – as a way to support each other in their athletic goals.

Stephen Ochan, an all-state soccer player, came out for outdoor track for the first time this spring because of deal he struck with his best friend, Hany Ramadan.

Ramadan, the indoor Class A state champion in the 200 and 400 meters, and Ochan first met in their native Sudan a decade ago.

Ramadan came to Deering at the start of his junior year. Ochan first attended school in Portland in fourth grade.

“When I saw him, he looked so familiar,” Ochan said.

The two became fast friends in Maine, playing soccer with each other over the summer. That’s when Ochan challenged Ramadan.

“I told him if he did soccer, I would do track,” Ochan said. “Now I have to because he was committed to soccer.”

It hasn’t been an easy promise to keep. Ochan, who hopes to play college soccer at the Division II level, also is playing on two travel soccer teams this spring. But he’s enjoying the challenge.

“I like beating myself up,” Ochan said with a laugh. “I go to track and beat myself up, then I go to soccer.”

Ramadan said Ochan brings a positive spirit to the team.

“He likes to keep the team together and he’s good at it,” Ramadan said. “He motivates others to do well.”