Middle School Track & Field
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The history of track and field at Thornton Academy dates back to June 1, 1894 when Thornton hosted a six-way meet at Saco Driving Park, a racetrack located to the west of the Main Street campus and near the railroad line leading into Saco. The Maroon and Gold scored fifteen points and finished third, defeating Gardiner, Colby College, Waterville, and Brunswick; they were only outscored by victorious Bangor and Portland.
In the past 125 years, track and field has proved to be a popular activity that offers teams in both the winter and spring seasons; historically it has drawn the most participants of any athletic program in the school. Thornton Academy offered its first winter track squad in the 1917-1918 season when it finished third in the state championship meet held at Bowdoin College in Brunswick. For many years, a wooden track located adjacent to George Addison Emery Gymnasium was utilized for winter training while spring practices and meets were conducted at the Thornton Academy Athletic Facility located on the east side of Main Street (on the site of the current Saco Rite Aid).
In addition, for over seventy seasons, Thornton Academy indoor track and field participated in weekly meets held at the historic Portland Exposition Building. Running races were held on an oval track while throwing and jumping events took place in the infield. The tradition and pageantry that accompanied the annual Southwesterns championships at the end of the season routinely drew in excess of 1000 spectators.
Girls track and field programs became commonplace in southern Maine in the early 1970’s. Thornton Academy sponsored its first girls outdoor track and field teams in 1973 and was the Southwestern Maine Conference champion in its second year of existence. The school added a separate girls indoor track and field program in 1985. Led by longtime coach Mark DeFrancesco, the Golden Trojans were both SMAA and Class A state indoor champions in 1986. The girls indoor and outdoor track and field programs have been among the most consistent in the state of Maine over the past three decades. In that same span, they have garnered fourteen outdoor and twelve indoor conference titles, along with four outdoor and eight indoor state championship titles.
The girls indoor track program includes a star-studded field of multiple-time conference and state champions. Nichole Motil dominated the Maine high school track scene in the mid-1990’s and won nine state titles as a jumper and hurdler. Jenny Pierpont was the state’s top sprinter and long jumper in the mid-2000’s and captured a school-record sixteen individual state championships and eighteen league titles in those disciplines. More recently, Tori Daigle won eleven conference crowns and seven state championships in sprinting, hurdling, and jumping and helped pace her indoor and outdoor teams to four team state titles.
The Thornton Academy boys track and field program has produced some of the most outstanding individual athletes in school history. Middle distance standout Derrick Martin won three Class A state championships in the early 1990’s and gained induction into the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame. Dan Smith was a star in the throwing events from 2006-2009 and went on to perform at Brown University. A pair of recent Golden Trojans—Jason Montano and Travis Snyder—established themselves as two of the best athletes in the history of Maine track and field. Montano broke a 42-year-old record in the indoor shot put and won four individual state championships during his career. Snyder established the all-time Maine record in the pole vault as a senior and has five individual titles to his credit.
Today, both the Thornton Academy indoor and outdoor track and field programs compete in the Southwestern Maine Activities Association. During the winter, the teams utilize Linnell Gymnasium for their training and participate in regular season and championship meets at the Costello Field House on the campus of the University of Southern Maine. The outdoor program takes place on campus at the Dr. Paul S. Hill, Jr. Stadium, which has been host to numerous conference and state championship events. On four occasions, due to the quality of the facility and its central location, Thornton Academy has hosted the New England Outdoor Track and Field Championships.
Students who meet all academic eligibility requirements may compete for Thornton Academy upper school or middle school track and field teams. There are a variety of events that meet the interests and skill level of participants: sprinting, middle distance running, long distance running, hurdling, jumping, throwing, pole vaulting, and the race walk.