Travis Snyder wins the pole vault while competing for Thornton Academy at the 2019 New England high school track and field outdoor championships in Saco. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Thornton Academy graduate Travis Snyder is looking to get back to the NCAA Division I track and field championships for the first time in two years. Westbrook’s Mahamed Sharif hasn’t waited as long. Sharif competed in the 800 meters at the indoor championships, but that doesn’t dampen his drive to get back.

“The whole year culminates in one moment,” Snyder said of competing at the national championships.

The top athletes in a large and talented contingent of Mainers on the University of Connecticut men’s track and field team, Sharif and Snyder will compete Wednesday at the NCAA Division I East first-round meet in Jacksonville, Florida. There, they could qualify for the NCAA championship meet, scheduled for June 7-10 in Austin, Texas. Snyder is seeded ninth in a field of 48 in the pole vault, and Sharif is seeded 39th of 48 runners in the 800.

In March, Sharif set the school indoor record in the 800, running in 1 minute, 46.96 seconds at the NCAA Last Chance qualifier in Boston to earn a spot at the national championship meet at the University of New Mexico, where he ran 1:52.23 to finish in 12th place. While he’s focused on the 800, Sharif is sure he can run a sub-4 minute mile. Beth Alford-Sullivan, UConn’s director of track and field and cross country, isn’t convinced, and it’s a running debate between the two.

What they agree on, is Sharif hasn’t reached his full potential in the 800 yet.

Mahamed Sharif of Westbrook High holds on to win the 800 meters at the 2019 Class A track state championships in Lewiston. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

“This year, Mahamed shifted things up. He’s been getting in 50 to 60 miles per week. He turned into a more focused athlete. I’ve seen him grow up as a young man and a great athlete,” Alford-Sullivan said.


Two weeks ago, the UConn men’s track and field team won the Big East outdoor championship for the fifth consecutive season. The fingerprints of Maine athletes were all over the trophy.

Along with Snyder’s first-place finish in the pole vault, Biddeford’s Matt Brady won the shot put with a throw of 53 feet, 5.45 inches, and also placed fourth in the discus (153-4). Sharif, a junior, placed second in the 800 (1:51.21) and was a member of the Huskies’ first place 1,600-meter relay team. Nick Connolly, a freshman from Scarborough, placed fourth in the shot put with a throw of 49 feet, 2.25 inches, joining four teammates, including Brady, in the top five in the event.

Scarborough’s Zach Barry is also a member of the UConn track and field team, competing in middle distance events.

“When I was getting recruited in 2017, they told me I was the first athlete from Maine they recruited in a long time,” Brady said. “It’s cool to see other guys from Maine come to UConn.”

Biddeford’s Matt Brady won the shot put at the Big East Championships with a throw of 53 feet, 5.45 inches, and placed fourth in the discus (153-4). Jared Beltz photo/Courtesy of UConn athletics

Brady redshirted the 2017 outdoor season and the following indoor season, then was given an extra year of eligibility after the 2020 outdoor season was canceled because of the pandemic. In this final season, Brady fought injuries, including a right pectoral strain that kept him out for two months of the indoor season. Brady knew the Big East championship was his final meet, and he won the shot on his final throw of the day, deciding to just let it rip.

“I said to myself, this is the last throw of my career. Leave it all out there. It wasn’t the throw I wanted, but it won the meet,” Brady said, adding he feels he could’ve thrown farther with a full healthy season.


As a senior at Westbrook, Sharif set the Class A indoor record in the 800, winning the state title in 1:54.60. When the 2020 spring season was canceled at the onset of the pandemic, Sharif was denied the opportunity to defend the Class A 800 outdoor title he won as a junior.

Wednesday, Sharif is seeded with a time of  1:48.73, and is set to run in lane three in the sixth and final preliminary heat. If Sharif has a time to beat in his head, he’s not sharing it.

“The time will come. I just have to race to win. Everyone’s good,” Sharif said. “Ideally, I’d like to get to 1:44 in my career, or 1:43. I know it will come when the race is right.”

Travis Snyder of Saco reacts after clearing 6 feet, 7 inches for a new state record in the pole vault during the 2019 Class A indoor track state championships. Jill Brady/Staff Photographer

Snyder won three state championships at the Class A outdoor meet in 2019, setting a record in the pole vault (16-9.25) while also winning the 110 hurdles and 300 hurdles. While Snyder competed in the heptathlon last year, now his focus is just on the pole vault, and he’s seen the results.

“You get a lot more time to work on the little details. You can train a lot harder,” he said.

For Snyder, that means increasing his speed on the runway so the energy transfer is greater when he plants his pole to begin the vault. Every vault is a physics experiment. Snyder’s seed vault for the East regional is 5.41 meters, just over 17 feet, 7.5 inches. Snyder said he’s vaulted 17-11.5. Rich Miller, Snyder’s coach, thinks he can go 18-6.

“I’m excited about right now, but I’m really looking forward to the future,” Miller said. “Indoors, Travis missed NCAAs by one spot. Now he has the opportunity to compete on the big stage again. He’s doing things on a different level than he’s done before.”

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