2013-08-02 / Front Page

Team work

Track tradition brings together South Portlanders
By Alex Acquisto
Staff Writer


Runners dart from the starting line at the sound of the gun during one of several men’s 800-meter races on Saturday at Westbrook High School where the Maine Corporate Track Association held its annual state championship. Seven teams participated with more than 200 team members, combined. South Portland won the competition by 126 points with a score of 915. Unum placed second with 789 points. (Alex Acquisto photo) Runners dart from the starting line at the sound of the gun during one of several men’s 800-meter races on Saturday at Westbrook High School where the Maine Corporate Track Association held its annual state championship. Seven teams participated with more than 200 team members, combined. South Portland won the competition by 126 points with a score of 915. Unum placed second with 789 points. (Alex Acquisto photo) SOUTH PORTLAND – Competing employees of the city of South Portland won their fourth consecutive state championship for the Maine Corporate Track Association last Saturday under a very sunny sky at Westbrook High School.

Formed four years ago, South Portland’s team has won every year it has competed, which is impressive, said Matt Green, coach of South Portland team and director of Maine Corporate Track Association. South Portland surpassed Unum for first place by 126 points with a score of 915 to 789. Other competing teams, in the order they placed, were MaineHealth, Bath Iron Works, IDEXX, Disability RMS and WEX, Inc.

South Portland’s team, approximately 40 people, is unique because it is typically the only non-corporate team that competes; however, Portland, Westbrook, Maine Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Post Office have had teams in the past, Green said.

The team is mostly comprised of city officials, teachers, firefighters and police officers. Unique also is its expansive age range: 18 to 70. The oldest member of the team is Charlie Kahill, but he was not in attendance on Saturday. Instead, Kahill was competing at the National Senior Games in Cleveland, Ohio with his son, David Kahill, coach of South Portland track and field.

Unlike other teams, members in South Portland do not have to pay to participate. Green purchased the uniforms, for example, and while $15 donations are welcome, said Green, they are not required. Over the years Green has accrued about $600 worth of equipment. At times, South Portland’s Wellness Committee has also contributed funds.

“I think our highest ranking town official is Tex,” said Matt Green as he pointed to Tex Haeuser who was stretching in preparation for his first race, the 55-meter hurdles. Haeuser, the planning and development director for South Portland since 1990, had a chance to break the team’s hurdle record.

Haeuser readied in the starting position at the blocks before the gun was fired and took off. As his team cheered him to the finish line, the roar swelled when it was revealed that he had, indeed, broken the record.

“The old record was 11.1 seconds,” Green said.

Haeuser ran it in 10.5.

“To lower the record by that much in a race so short is a big deal. Typically the record would only be broken by .1 or .2 seconds,” Green said.

Record-breaking was one of many themes at Saturday’s championship.

“Half of our team has never competed in track and field events,” Green said. “In this league, the team participation is really rewarding.”

“Every year we have someone training really hard,” Green added. “It’s impressive because we have people into their 50s and 60s improving their times every year.”

“This guy, he improved his times,” Green said as he pointed to Bob Scarpelli, a South Portland police officer.

This was Scarpelli’s second year competing for South Portland.

“It’s a good way to stay in shape and it’s competitive but it’s also really not,” Scarpelli said. “It’s jovial.”

Just then the starting gun was fired and male runners sprinted toward the hurdles. Two South Portland runners lagged considerably behind. One of their teammates shouted from the sidelines, “Come on! You can’t both be last!”

Scarpelli, who had turned his head to see, turned back and said, “See? It’s jovial.”

In addition to races, Scarpelli also competed in the long jump and turbo javalin, which is different from the regular javelin in that the javelin itself is rubber, hence it’s lighter and easier to maneuver. Scarpelli set a personal best.

“It’s funny because people like Mayor Tom Blake, who is the coach of Unum, is the opposition,” Green said. “They’re former national champs and we beat them at our second meet.”

South Portland Mayor Tom Blake, a founder of the Maine Corporate Track Association in 1986, and captain of Unum since 1986, said his team was second best.

“It’s all about numbers. And South Portland outnumbers us; we had 31 runners on Saturday. Our loss is not disheartening at all. We still won in our division.”

Unum, since its inception, has competed in 24 national championships, all of which were funded by the company until three years ago when funding stopped and trips to nationals in California ceased.

Unum’s participants typically have to pay $30 per season or a small amount per meet, Blake said.

“It’s kind of interesting to be the mayor the city with the strongest team and be captain of the team with biggest success,” Blake said.

Blake said that while Unum does compete to win, the more important takeaway is camaraderie. South Portland’s Kari Voelker agreed.

Voelker ran track in high school competes in a number of road races throughout the year.

“I stumbled upon this and thought it would be really good,” Voelker said.

An eighth grade math teacher at Mahoney Middle School, Voelker said, “I don’t think would ever be in a position to meet most of these people even though we all work for the city. It’s nice to get to know people like this.”

The camaraderie and pleasantries were palpable, even among participants who had not competed before.

“I learnedlampRecyclePrintAD_how to throw 5.16x4.a turboai javelin1 7/by1/ throwing a broom handle in my driveway,” Hilary Chase said. “Now, I’m like, a pro,” she joked.

“But really, what I enjoy is the camaraderie and challenge to do better this year than I did before,” Chase added.

As the middle of the meet approached, boxes of medals were carried to the infield.

Hollie Corbett, who had already broken the 800-meter record earlier that morning, was nominated for the Tim Smith Award for outstanding distance runner, and the Peter Cooley award, which she won, given to one who contributes to the successful running of the team and trains on a personally competitive level.

“As the mayor of South Portland, I support the program like this wholeheartedly. Healthy employees tend to be more productive employees,” Blake said. “This event promotes teamwork and camaraderie on and off the track. And finally, it makes one happy; we have fun, you can see people having fun. To see2:people12:50 PMmaking themselves better, people how can you wrong?”

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