Girls participate in the 100-meter hurdles on Wednesday in South Portland. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Over 4,600 Maine high school students participate in outdoor track and field.

Less than one percent will be celebrated as an individual state champion. Most will never qualify to compete in an individual event at the Class A, B or C state meets.

But every track and field athlete can achieve success. Verifiable, objectively measured, personal improvement. Which for the vast majority of the kids running, jumping, and throwing heavy objects is the personal goal.

“I’m trying to just get better than I was before,” said South Portland senior George Aldrich, who competes in the shot put, discus and javelin. “It’s excitement, I guess. You just feel really good. I’m just as happy getting one foot farther as 10 feet.”

And, unlike winning a state championship, which can only happen at the end-of-season meet, those personal milestones and feel-good moments can happen all season long.

Even at the first meet of the year on a Wednesday during April vacation week at breezy South Portland, where several of the SMAA squads gathered.


Bonny Eagle’s Emmett St. Pierre runs the anchor leg during the 400-meter relay on Wednesday in South Portland. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

“I’ve seen it from my teammates. Even today,” said Bonny Eagle senior sprinter Emmett St. Pierre. “Kids that aren’t qualifying for Southwesterns or states, they get a PR and it makes their day. I think it’s just knowing that you’re getting better and better. Even if you don’t run the PR every time, you still know that you’re working toward it, and when you get it, it’s just awesome.”

Gabbie Archibald, a South Portland senior, competes in distance events. Steve Craig/Portland Press Herald

In many team sports, improvement translates and is gauged by increased playing time, which ultimately is up to a coach’s decision. Track and field is different. There is room for all levels of abilities to compete. Improvement is verified by completely impartial stopwatches and tape measures.

A 10th of a second in the 100-meter dash is a big deal. Same with a second or two in the 800, a couple of inches in the high jump, and especially a foot or more in the throwing and horizontal jumping events. Those incremental advancements are celebrated.

Even when someone finishes back in the pack.

“Any good race feels good,” said Gabbie Archibald, a senior distance runner at South Portland. “Like, I competed in SMAAs for indoors. I was in last place. It looks like I did horrible, but it was a huge PR for me. It felt great regardless of what place I was.”

In 2023, there were 2,127 girls and 2,539 boys on outdoor track and field teams in Maine, making it the third most popular girls’ sport and fifth among boys, according to participation data compiled by the Maine Principals’ Association. Soccer (3,751 boys; 3,184 girls) and basketball (3,221 boys; 2,196 girls) are the top participatory sports for both genders. Football (3,111 overall) and baseball (2,768) also rank higher among boys.


Only about 15 percent will qualify in an individual event at the Class A, B or C state championship meets, said Scarborough High boys’ coach Derek Veilleux, who also manages Maine Milesplit, a comprehensive website dedicated to track and field and cross country. Scarborough girls’ coach Denise Curry pegged the number at closer to 30 percent. Either way, it’s clear that more than half of Maine’s track and field athletes will not qualify for the state meet.

A good indicator that it’s not easy to meet either the automatic or provisional state-meet standards is that at last year’s state championships, only six of the 96 individual events (16 for boys and 16 for girls in each class) had the maximum of 32 athletes.

Some standards are tougher to reach than others. For instance, only 14 boys in Class A and 15 in Class B were entered in the 300-meter hurdles at last year’s state meets.

Scarborough High senior Maddy Wolfgram said qualifying for the Class A championship meet would be a “perfect ending” to her track career. Steve Craig/Portland Press Herald

That’s why many athletes like Scarborough senior Maddy Wolfgram strive to reach a state meet qualifying standard. She started competing in middle school. This past winter, she was part of the Red Storm’s 3,200-meter relay team that placed seventh, picking up one key point as Scarborough won its first girls’ indoor team title since 2012.

“I feel like these past few seasons, I’ve really started gaining speed, and every time I PR, it’s an amazing feeling and I want to do it again, so it motivates me even more,” Wolfgram said. “That’s what I love about track. That you can just keep improving.”

But qualifying as an individual has eluded Wolfgram.


“I would like to make states. I’m not super far off, either, like maybe 15 seconds. If I work super hard, maybe I can get it,” Wolfgram said.

Curry believes Wolfgram is capable of achieving that healthy cut in time and making the 1,600-meter Class A provisional mark of 5 minutes, 55 seconds.

“She can do it. She’s put in the time, put in the miles,” Curry said.

Wolfgram could have been speaking for hundreds of Maine track athletes when she was asked what it would feel like to qualify for a state meet.

“Oh my God, that would be amazing. It would be like a perfect end to an amazing track career,” she said.

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