SACO — When Jarett Flaker watched the Rio Olympics last summer, he paid particular attention to the sprinters and hurdlers.

On Monday, the 16-year-old rising sophomore at Scarborough High – who won a Class A indoor state title in the 55-meter dash and placed second in the 100 meters and third in the 300 hurdles this spring – watched a pair of Rio Olympians go through a workout on the Thornton Academy track.

“It’s different from watching them on TV,” said Flaker, who was seated in the infield not far from where Devon Allen tumbled over a hurdle and sprawled on the rubberized track surface. “When they’re in the Olympics, you don’t think they mess up and make mistakes, but you can see here today, they do make mistakes.”

Former Lewiston High star Isaiah Harris and former Lake Region star Kate Hall, who are both chasing Olympic dreams, watched Allen and Cabral work out. Staff photo by Jill Brady

Allen played football and ran track at the University of Oregon, catching passes from Marcus Mariota and winning NCAA hurdling national titles. He placed fifth in the Rio Games, one spot ahead of former Oregon teammate Johnathan Cabral, a dual citizen who was competing for Canada.

Jamie Cook, a Kennebunk native who coaches both Allen and Cabral, brought them to Saco for a workout Monday and invited a pair of Mainers harboring Olympic aspirations, Kate Hall of Casco and Isaiah Harris of Lewiston, as well as any local athletes or coaches who cared to observe, absorb and ask questions.

Allen, Cabral and Harris – a rising junior at Penn State who recently placed second at 800 meters in the national championships, all plan to compete in the world championships next month in London. Hall, who just completed her sophomore year at the University of Georgia, won the NCAA long jump title last month but a hamstring issue prevented her from competing at nationals, thus costing her a potential trip to worlds.

“That’s a really big goal, but I have plenty of time,” said Hall, nursing an iced coffee. The hamstring “is just a minor tweak. It’s already feeling a lot better, so I’m going to be fine. I just have to take some time off and rehab it a little bit.”

Harris said he plans to continue his training at home in Lewiston. He has a meet in Washington D.C., in the middle of the month and flies to London on July 28.

“I started running again two days ago,” he said. “I’ll probably go train on the Bates track.”

Although his races have no hurdles, Harris said he still paid close attention to the words of Cook and the actions of Allen and Cabral.

“Just about how they practice, their mentality and stuff like that,” he said. “Not so much the technique, but some other things, because Devon is a crazy good athlete, and so is Johnathan. Maybe I can learn a few things.”

Students and coaches watch Olympic track athlete Johnathan Cabral run hurdles during Monday’s instructional practice with former Kennebunk High School track star Jamie Cook at Thornton Academy. Staff photo by Jill Brady

Cook was a multisport star at Kennebunk High in the early 90s, played football and competed in decathlon at Penn State and has been an assistant track and field coach first for 10 years at the University of Pennsylvania and then for seven more at Oregon.

This spring was his last at Oregon.

“I decided to go and try my own thing,” he said. “Still kind of exploring some possibilities, inside track and outside of track. Keep coaching these guys, hopefully, but I prefer to get back closer to my family.”

Cook and his wife, Kristin, have two children, ages 7 and 11. His brother and sister – both former state champions in shot put and discus while at Kennebunk High – watched the proceedings Monday along with their kids.

“I’m not too worried about it,” said Cook, who turns 41 this month. “I think my experience speaks for itself. The time is right to do my own thing, to lead my own program.”

Cook put Allen and Cabral through a 90-minute workout. They started on the track and finished in the long jump pit, with an audience of nearly 100 slow-clapping a drill Cook made competitive, a double triple jump of sorts that ended with Allen mock-bowing to the crowd.

Jamie Cook

“We’re pretty relaxed in how we do things,” Cook said. “We work hard but we have fun.”

After stretching, Allen and Cabral joined Hall and Harris in the bleachers for a group photo and a question-and-answer session that lasted nearly 45 minutes.

On Saturday, Allen and Cook were in Paris for a Diamond League meet in which Allen entered the 110-meter finals with the second-fastest trials time (13.10 seconds) but was disqualified for a false start.

Later this week, Allen will compete in New York and Cabral at the Canadian championships in Ottawa. This is their first visit to Maine.

“When we started running track, we didn’t really know much,” said Allen, 22, who grew up in Phoenix. “I think it’s important to take as much knowledge as you can and pass it along.”

“I’m not going to lie, it can be tough mentally and tough physically to just come out here and run not only against other athletes but against yourself,” said Cabral, who grew up in Los Angeles but spent summers in northern Quebec, homeland of his mother. “Passing that (barrier) is what actually makes you a better athlete.”

George Mendros, longtime track coach at Thornton Academy, watched the workout with particular interest. He had helped set up the impromptu clinic and was pleased to see so many local coaches and athletes in attendance.

“I think it’s safe to say,” he said, nodding toward Allen and Cabral, “we’ve never had anyone run faster on this track.”

Mia Taranko, 15, is a rising sophomore at Thornton Academy who placed second in the Class A long jump and plans to take up hurdling and pentathlon, which also includes high jump, shot put, long jump and 800 meters.

“I’ve never hurdled before,” she said. “It was nice to see what it’s supposed to look like.”

Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or

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