There are more people under the age of 18 in Massachusetts than there are people in Maine. Certainly the vast majority are not quarter-milers, but you get the idea.

With a statewide population of just 1.3 million, Maine’s high school stars don’t stand a chance of facing the volume of competition seen by standouts in Massachusetts, or many other states, for that matter.

They may face stiff competition at the state meets, but week in and week out they do not. As a result, Maine’s top runners, jumpers and throwers need to find creative ways to push themselves.

In the case of Alex Nichols of Brunswick, that can mean running in the second lane or doing an event he’s never tried.

And yet Nichols, who leads Maine runners this season in the 400 meters with his 51.24 seconds (as well as in the 200 with his 23.27) is on a roll.

“In Massachusetts, every meet every week is like our state meet. Those kids are running against kids that have the potential to run 49 and 48 seconds, and maybe they’re even on their own team,” said Brunswick boys’ coach Dan Dearing.

Nichols won the 400 last year at the state meet in 51.05, but his personal best indoors is 50.85 and his best mark outdoors is 49.91.

Dearing thinks Nichols could break 50 seconds indoors. The Class A state record is 50.37 and the overall state 400-meter indoor top time is 49.59.

Nichols posted this season’s top state time at a Dec. 21 meet at Bowdoin College.

Now, with only a handful of runners in Maine who can clock a 50-second 400, Nichols is spending his time trying to qualify for the state meet in as many events as possible; it’s one way he challenges himself.

He has qualified in the 800, 400 and 200, and the 55-meter hurdles.

“Down in the southern part of the state there are guys who run fast all season long, but when he runs he’s out there on his own,” said Dearing. “When he ran at Colby he won in 53 but the next-fastest was 58. Alex ran most of it in the second lane.”

LAKE REGION sophomore Kate Hall leads the state in two events and has the ability to threaten numerous other records.

At one of the first Western Maine Conference meets of the season, Hall set a state all-time indoor best in the long jump with her mark of 18 feet, 1/2-inch.

She also clocked the season’s best 55 meters time of 7.30 seconds.

Hall’s jump at the Jan. 4 meet at the University of Southern Maine doesn’t count as a state record because it wasn’t done at a state meet.

The previous all-time state best was the jump of 17-8.75 set by Jesse Labreck of Messalonskee in 2008.

But her long-jump mark was a big step from where she left off last indoor season.

At the Class B state meet, she won three events as a freshman, becoming the first Maine girl to do so. She set personal bests in the 200 (26.33) and 55-meter dash (7.27), and won the long jump by more than a foot (17-11/2).

Lake Region Coach Mark Snow said Hall has been working toward another year of big improvements, physically and mentally.

She’s working on her lift at the takeoff in the long jump, and increased strength training, which has improved her speed. And mentally, Snow said Hall is looking to advance to another level.

“Although getting the state titles are a goal, I know she wouldn’t be content with that. Athletes like Bethany Brown (of Waterville), Becky O’Brien, (a Greely graduate), Jesse Lebreck, (a Messalonskee graduate) and Abbey Leonardi (former Kennebunk distance runner), and quite a few others over the years seem very driven to be as good as they can be at the New England and national levels. The others have shown that Maine girls are as good as any girls in the country. Kate aspires to be at that level,” Snow said.

THE GREELY girls have a huge corps of jumpers on their Class B team this year.

At a Jan. 11 meet, eight jumpers took five of the six places in the long jump, and all five of the top places in the triple jump.

While Sarah Ingraham took first in the long jump (15-2.5) and second in the triple jump (31-11), Kaley Sawyer won the triple jump (33-1.75), and Molly Fitzpatrick finished fourth in both the long jump (13-6) and the triple (30-5).

They were surrounded by five other jumpers who scored.

Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at:

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