CUMBERLAND — As Greely High track coach John Folan made his way outside the school amid a sea of runners, he stopped Chloe Waldrep on the way to her warmup run.

“Chloe, will you be high jumping this year?” asked Folan, whose girls’ team won the Class B indoor state title in February.

Greely’s top jumper is senior Lizzie Brown, who was fifth in the high jump at the indoor states and second outdoors. And Waldrep is a middle distance runner.

But after 25 years as head coach, Folan has learned that versatility is a key element in his team’s success.

Winning multiple state titles in track and field is a complicated puzzle that requires more than large rosters or individual state champions, although both are obvious advantages.

What makes a track and field dynasty in Maine? Coaches who have won multiple titles say it comes down to identifying talent, finding a different approach when needed and earning the athletes’ trust.

Folan, whose girls’ teams won 13 titles in 18 years from 1991 to 2008, believes school pride is more important than raw talent.

Last year Greely won the state meet by nine points without an individual champion. If the Rangers don’t win this season, Folan said they’ll be close.

“We always tell the kids: ‘As long as you gave it your best effort, as long as you’re proud of that,'” Folan said. “We talk about improvement, we talk about effort. We don’t talk about scores. We just don’t do it.”

Folan said Greely’s string of state titles was achieved largely by the coaches’ being patient and positive. He said he never puts pressure on his team.

Last year, Ron Kelly’s Scarborough girls’ team won the Class A indoor state title, its first since winning eight straight from 2005 to 2012.

Kelly said the key is moving athletes into different events they might not have considered. He talks openly and frequently to his athletes about this, and he said they buy into the approach.

“Sometimes they want to try it on their own,” he said. “We’ve always said if you’re a sprinter, you’re not going to just do the 55 and 200. You’ve got to try the 400.

“You’ve got to have a rapport with the kids. The kids have to want to work hard. I always look at the big picture, even years people didn’t think we could win.”

Scarborough boys’ coach Derek Veilleux – whose team won its seventh title in nine years last season in indoor track – said he adopted Kelly’s approach when he started coaching there in 2004.

“One thing he’s always done, he always gets the best out of his team,” Veilleux said of Kelly. “He’s not afraid to put people in events they might not have considered. He doesn’t put limits on them. He doesn’t pigeonhole a kid.”

Veilleux said his approach to success has included adding something new each year.

“It takes a little more time to learn something new or implement something new, but in the long run it helps the kids,” he said.

For example, before the Red Storm’s 2009 championship season, Veilleux introduced a more regimented routine in the weight room – a practice he has continued. Some years he added new stretches, or hurdle drills, or core-strength workouts.

This year, for the first time, he’s having his sprinters do less running. Instead they do a circuit-training drill once a week with different exercises.

“It takes pounding off their legs,” he said. “It’s the new movement in sprinting. The research shows less running is better.”

York Coach Ted Hutch, who founded the program in 1999, has won four Class B state championships since 2012. He said the key has been to create a culture of hard work – and fun – that helps recruit more athletes. York consistently has 90 to 110 students come out for track. This winter there are 120.

Each week a game substitutes for practice, such as dodgeball or capture the flag. Sometimes the team goes sledding. These are recovery days, but the running the team does during these games makes for a kind of cross-training.

Another Hutch mandate is to treat freshmen with respect.

“That’s kind of an old sports tradition, to do the freshman initiation. I found out real quick it’s stupid,” Hutch said. “We treat the freshmen like veterans. It’s amazing how many show up.”


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.