High school indoor track

Fleet of feet: Belfast relay teammates have need for speed

Robertson-McIntire, Mehuren, Jolliffe, Banks hand it to one another for success
By Ken Waltz | Jul 06, 2018
Courtesy of: Jane Robertson From left, Belfast's Emily Jolliffe, Junne Robertson-McIntire, Kelsey Mehuren and Mackenzie Banks.

Belfast — One could argue that Belfast Area High School student-athletes Junne Robertson-McIntire, Kelsey Mehuren, Emily Jolliffe and Mackenzie Banks essentially are built for speed and, well, running fast. Really, really fast.

In fact, being fleet of feet is the name of their games.

Together, they are relay extraordinaires. Connoisseurs of their craft. They give each other a hand — and a pair of feet — to realize their lofty track goals.

And while each is plenty fast in their own right — Robertson-McIntire, for example, is one of the most talented sprinters in New England and holds a bundle of school running records — it is as a group that the foursome has experienced some of their finest moments in the sport.

One of those came over the winter when the teammates worked so well together — and supported each other's running talents — that they won the state Class B indoor track 4x200-meter relay title.

The foursome set school records in the state and New England indoor meets in the 4x200, and continued that success with top places in regular-season and postseason outdoor track-and-field meets — in relays and individual events — in the spring.

In the recently-concluded 2017-18 school year, Mehuren and Jolliffe were seniors, and graduated in June, while Banks was a junior and Robertson-McIntire a sophomore.

The foursome are standout athletes in many sports, but come together to help one another succeed in track. They did that by winning the state 4x200-meter title in the winter and placed 19th in the event at the New England championships with a school record time of 1:51.29.

In fact, passing a small, hollowed baton between one another as they try to maintain optimum speed and focus is their forté — and directly leads to top podium appearances.

Usually, in the 4x200, Jolliffe started the race before she handed the baton to Banks, who, in turn, handed to Mehuren and finally to the lightning-quick Robertson-McIntire for the final "kick leg" of the race.

Robertson-McIntire and Banks are four-sport athletes, as Robertson-McIntire excels in soccer, basketball and indoor and outdoor track, while Banks competes in field hockey, basketball and indoor/outdoor track. Mehuren also excels in field hockey and Jolliffe in cross country.

While that same group won the outdoor league 4x100-meter title and finished second in the state Class B outdoor event in the spring, three of the teammates, minus Banks, but with the addition of freshman Lillie Mitchell, also won the state title in the 4x400-meter relay and even competed in the New Englands in the event, as they placed 21st.

Additionally, Mehuren and Jolliffe are part of the always successful 4x800-meter relay team, with teammates Zoe Deans and Hannah Sanderson, that placed first at the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B championships and second at states in the spring.

The Robertson-McIntire/Mehuren/Banks/Jolliffe group has plenty of school/team records attached to their names. Robertson-McIntire holds top times at 55 and 200 meters, as well as the 4x200, for indoors, while outdoors, she holds the best times at 100 and 200 meters, and 4x400.

Banks has a piece of the indoor 4x200-meter record, as does Jolliffe in the 4x200 and 4x800 indoors and 4x400 and 4x800 outdoors. Mehuren holds records in the 4x200 and 4x800 indoors and 4x100 and 4x400 outdoors, as well as 300-meter hurdles outdoors.

Robertson-McIntire, who lives in Belfast and is the daughter of Dr. Jane Robertson and Gary McIntire, said she has a passion for track and learned early that, in running, she was better at sprints then distances.

And she has laser focus to go along with incredible natural athletic talent — of course, honed with hard work and dedication.

"Right before the gun goes off [to start the relay race] I think, 'speed, speed, speed,' " which was a part of a handshake between Robertson-McIntire and Kylie Nelson’s when Robertson-McIntire was a freshman. "When I’m waiting for Kelsey [Mehuren] to hand me the baton I am waiting and listening for her to say 'go.' "

Robertson-McIntire, a multi-time league and state champion in a bundle of sprint events, said she always has been considered fast. In fact, she never lost a race in middle school and has beaten nearly all of her high school opponents the past two years.

She said her strategy during a race is simple. "To be the first to cross the finish line." And she usually is

Robertson-McIntire, who enjoys time with friends, being outdoors, fishing and dirt biking, said the keys to a successful relay is efficient, clean baton handoffs.

Robertson-McIntire will continue to strive for school/team records and collect more state — and possibly event New England — championships during her final two years of high school.

While Robertson-McIntire excels in sprints and jumps, Mehuren, who lives in Searsmont and is the daughter of Jerry and Renee Mehuren, has proven a versatile all-around track athlete. She does well in races from 100 to 800 meters, including the challenging 100- and 300-meter hurdles.

"I do the relays because it's fun to do because when we win or get a team personal record the celebration is not only individual," Mehuren said. "I do the hurdles because it's difficult and I like to have a event that's not just running. With the 400 and 800 they're two of the hardest races in track and I'm a sprinter or distance runner so they're right between for distance."

Mehuren, who hopes to find a niche playing field hockey at the Division I University of Maine in Orono ("to get to play at that high intensity of play; to develop my skills more at this level"), said competing in track "can be very stressful. Like before every races, I get butterflies and my stomach feels uneasy. This happens throughout the day, which is different from a field hockey game where you get butterflies before the game but they soon go away after its started."

The school 300-meter hurdles record holder said to be successful in relays, besides having all four members of the team be able to run fast, "is practicing handoffs a lot and being close with your other legs of the relays."

Mehuren, who enjoys spending time with friends and family indoors and outdoors, said, "Generally, I enjoy the competition in sports, there's always room for improvement and always someone who's going to be better than you."

Banks, who lives in Belfast and is the daughter of Michael Banks and Stacey Brown Banks, said she competes in track "because I enjoy being part of the team and working towards personal and team goals. The atmosphere of the track teams are always the best out of any team I have been on because everyone is so supportive and it's so fun and exciting to see other people on your team reach their personal bests or break records."

Banks is a sprinter and enjoys the shorter relays in indoor and outdoor track. "I do mainly sprinting events and relays because being on the sprint relay teams and working toward a goal like a state championship with them is so fun and rewarding and they help you get through the nervousness better too."

Banks said she, like some teammates, has a bit of nervousness before races.

"I always get so nervous before track events, especially relays because in a relay you are running for a team and there are so many things that can go wrong with handoffs and cutting in," she said. "My relay team and I would always tell each other, 'It’s only one more lap, only one lap and we are done, we can do this,' which would always take some of the pressure off even at the most important meets."

Banks said once she is on the track moving toward the finish line or her next teammate to make a baton transfer, she relaxes a bit.

"While I’m running I don’t feel as nervous as before I start my race, I just think about doing my best and running faster than last meet," she said. "I think the keys to a successful relay are supporting each other, truly enjoying running with each other, having good handoffs — which comes from running with each other often — having patience, and being able to pick your teammates up if they make a mistake like mine did for me. Having a good practice means keeping a positive attitude and making sure you are able to laugh no matter how hard the workout is."

Banks, who enjoys hunting, cooking, art, gardening, skating, volunteering and being with my friends and family, always strives to do her best — and "to keep getting faster every meet," she said.

She said she hopes the future holds winning seasons in field hockey and track. "I also hope that we can be a state championship contender, especially in field hockey, but also in indoor and outdoor track relays. I also want to continue my athletics outside of and after high school with club sports or possibly college sports."

Jolliffe, who lives in Searsmont and is the daughter of Catherine Robbins-Halsted and Christian Halsted, excels as an individual in the 800 meters and as a member of relays — including 4x800 and 4x100.

"I prefer the relays because I like being part of the team," she said, "and while I am racing with the baton in my hand I run harder knowing that my relay is depending on me."

Jolliffe, who also enjoys canoeing, horseback riding and skiing, said her favorite aspect of sports "is having the team cheer you on as you race."

Jolliffe plans to participate in cross country and track in college and continue to run as a hobby.

The four Lions said they enjoy sports, in generally, because it allows them to remain active, physically fit and competing against like-minded teenagers.

Perhaps Banks summed it up best: "I enjoy sports because they keep me in shape, teach healthy workout habits, help me with managing my time and help me keep my grades up, but my favorite thing about sports is being part of a team."

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Ken Waltz
Sports Director
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Ken Waltz has been a media member 35 years and has received hundreds of Maine Press Association and New England Press Association awards for his writing, photography and page design. He has an associate degree in law enforcement and studied journalism at the University of Maine in Orono. He lives in South Thomaston with his wife, Sarah. The couple has an adult son, Brandon, who lives in North Carolina with his wife, Hannah, and daughter, Audrey Josephine. Ken loves to golf, ride his motorcycle, exercise at the YMCA and follow his beloved Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics and Bruins. He also has had a lifelong passion for the mysterious and all things paranormal/cryptozoological.

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