Maine has produced many extraordinary athletes in multiple different sports over the years.
Cindy Blodgett, Trevor Bates, Mike Bordick and Ryan Flaherty are a few select Pine Tree State natives who have excelled in their sport to the point where they embarked on professional careers, with Bates set to start his own on the gridiron this summer.
While those individual athletes found excellent success in their respective team sports, the sport of running and track and field has undoubtedly put Maine on the national athletic map for generations.
For starters, the legendary Joan Benoit Samuelson, who grew up in Freeport and attended Bowdoin College, won multiple Boston Marathons and Olympic gold in the 1984 Games in the marathon. She went on to create what has become Maine’s marquee road racing event, the Beach to Beacon 10K, held annually in Cape Elizabeth in August.
Thanks to Samuelson’s vision, the best runners in the country and the world have journeyed to Maine every August to compete over 6.2 challenging miles.
Other Maine runners, such as Louie and Joey Luchini, Ben True and Riley Masters, have put their stamps on their home state and made us proud on national levels as well.
Masters and True, along with four other Maine natives in Carsyn Koch of Wade, Boothbay’s Matthew Forgues, Isaiah Harris of Lewiston and Kate Hall of Naples, will be competing in the upcoming U.S. Olympic Track and Field trials at the University of Oregon starting Friday.
Masters is a Bangor native whose career I’ve had the pleasure of following since he was helping lead Bangor High School to regional and state championships. He’s always been a hard-working, driven young man, and longtime Ram track and field coach Maynard Walton once said after a high school meet, “Riley Masters is a master of running.”
He has certainly proven that, turning pro after an outstanding college career at the University of Maine and the University of Oklahoma, where he won a Big 12 championship in the 1,500 meters and participated in the 2012 Olympic trials in that event, narrowly missing qualifying for the final.
This time around, Masters will be aiming for a spot this summer’s games in Rio in the 5,000 meters, one of the glamour events of track and field. North Yarmouth native True will also be looking to qualify in the 5,000, along with the 10,000 meters.
Koch, who was a jack-of-all-trades athlete at Washburn High, excelling in everything from basketball to soccer to running, will compete in the 800 meters, while Forgues will compete in the 20,000-meter race walk, Harris in the 800 meters and Hall in the long jump.
No matter what this proud group of Pine Tree State runners do at “Track Town USA” over the course of the trials, they are all an inspiration to Maine runners in a running-crazed state. They are all an example of how hard work and dedication to their craft can lead to success.