The 2016 outdoor track and field season couldn’t have gone much better for Sam Rusak, who won four individual events at the Class A state meet to help Scarborough win the team title, then earned All-America status in the decathlon at the New Balance nationals.

This season was a different story: Rusak dealt with an injury for most of the season. But when it came time for the state meet, he still made an impact.

Despite not practicing or competing until 21/2 weeks before the state meet, Rusak tied the state record in the pole vault (16-0), helped Scarborough set a record in the 400-meter relay (42.99 seconds) and finished second in the high jump – after injuring a hamstring in the relay.

His efforts helped Scarborough retain its team championship and earned him a repeat selection as Maine Sunday Telegram track and field athlete of the year over several other strong candidates.

Rusak’s season got off to an inauspicious start when he pulled the tendons in his right big toe while practicing the discus. The injury not only kept him from competing for the most of the season but also from practicing.

But he was healthy enough to win the pole vault and high jump at the SMAA championships a week before the state meet.

At the state championships, he won the pole vault for the second straight year but passed on the chance to set the outright state record because the 400 relay was going on at the same time as the pole vault.

“I missed my first attempt at 16 (feet), and my relay came to tell me it was time. So I said, ‘Give me one more jump,’ ” Rusak said. “If I didn’t make it then I probably wasn’t going to (try again) after the relay.

“I heard Coach say, ‘You got it. Be confident.’ And as soon as I planted the pole, I knew I had this jump.”

He tied the state record set in 2008 by David Slovenski of Brunswick. Scarborough Coach Derek Veilleux called it his best vault ever.

“He crushed it,” Veilleux said. “He had 21/2 weeks to train, and he still almost won three events.

“He will be remembered as one of the greats in Maine high school track and field. And I think he would have done more in certain events if he focused on them. He probably would have cleared 17 feet in the pole vault. That is in the realm of possibility. But he was always willing to sacrifice and do other events for the team’s success.”

Rusak finished his high school career with 10 individual state titles and was a member of five state championship teams, including indoor track. He holds the indoor pole vault state record, and was an All-American in the decathlon (outdoors) and pentathlon (indoors).

But it was Rusak’s second-place finish in the high jump at this year’s state meet that most impressed his coach.

“I don’t think he was in any condition to jump, but he didn’t let on,” Veilleux said.

“Even when he wasn’t 100 percent, he still almost won it. That’s the heart of a champion. I’ll be telling that story to inspire athletes for years to come.”

Next year, Rusak will compete for the University of Connecticut on a track scholarship.

“I think his best is ahead of him,” Veilleux said. “He will have the chance to focus on his events. There’s definitely more he can do.”

Matt Brady, Biddeford senior, throws: Brady placed second in the shot put (57-01/4) and third in the discus (163-4) at the Class A championships, won the shot put at the New England championships with a meet-record throw of 64-33/4.

Tanner Burton, Messalonskee senior, hurdles: Burton won the 110-meter hurdles at the Class A state meet (14.91) and finished third at the New Englands (14.81). He also posted the fastest time in the state (14.77) this year.

Jake Koffman, Orono senior, throws: Koffman was a Class C state meet winner – discus (173-6) and shot put (55-23/4) – leading his team to the title. He also won the discus (190-1) and was second in the shot put (59-0) at the New Englands, and was third at the New Balance nationals in the discus with Maine best-ever throw – 199-1.

Luke Laverdiere, Yarmouth junior, distance: Laverdiere swept the distance events at the Class B state meet, capturing the 1,600 (4:18.75), 800 (2:01.00) and 3,200 (9:31.69). At the New Englands, he finished sixth in the 1,600 in a state-leading time of 4:17.18.

Austin Lufkin, Brewer senior, throws: Lufkin was a double winner at the Class A state meet, winning the shot put (59-41/2) and discus (175-2). At the New Englands, he finished third in the shot put (57-53/4) and second in the discus (183-8).

Evan Porter, Traip Academy senior, hurdles: Porter repeated his Class C state titles in the 110 hurdles (15.28), 100 dash (11.55), and 300 hurdles (39.98). He finished fourth in the 300 hurdles at the New Englands with the second-best time in state history (38.41).

Johnny Rosario, Thornton Academy senior, sprints: Rosario won the 100 (11.01) and 200 (22.48) at the Class A state meet, and posted the fastest times in the state this season in both events (10.97 and 22.35).

Sam Rusak, Scarborough senior, jumps/sprints: Rusak won another pole vault state title at the Class A meet with a state-record mark of 16-0, was second in the high jump (6-0), and anchored the winning 400 relay team to a state-record time of 42.99.

Stephen Smith, South Portland senior, racewalk: Smith won the 3,000 racewalk at the New Balance nationals (13:49.09) and the 1,600 racewalk at the Class A state meet (7:02.71).

Cayden Spencer-Thompson, Mattanawcook Academy sophomore, jumps: Spencer-Thompson won the Class C triple jump for the second straight year with a record of 47-3 and also won the long jump (22-31/2). At the New Englands, he was second in the triple jump (47-81/2) – breaking his own Maine all-time best mark.

COACH OF THE YEAR

Derek Veilleux, Scarborough: Aided by victories in all three relays, the Red Storm won their second straight Class A title and third in five years, more than doubling the point total of their closest challenger.

Deirdre Fleming can be reached at 791-6452 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: FlemingPph