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High school sports

Reflections: Share memories of being a state champion

Initial submissions: Mustang track, Lion gymnastics, Tiger cheering, Buccaneer soccer, Viking cross country
By Ken Waltz | Nov 19, 2020
Courtesy of: Darrell Seekins The 1972 state champion Searsport District High School boys cross-country team.

In your "glory days" were you an individual or member of a team who won a state high school athletic championship?

If that is true we want you to share your memories and reflections from that special time in your life. In fact, it does not matter if it was last year or your moment in the sports spotlight came decades ago.

If you won a high school state title, in any of the classifications, as an individual or member of a team at current or former high schools in Waldo and Knox counties, or at Medomak Valley and Waldoboro high schools in Lincoln County, send us your thoughts.

Watch video and see photos below.

What are we looking for?

Well, for people to email us a summary of their thoughts from their individual or team state championship season. Any pertinent information one wants to share about the team in general or one's role in the championship run, including what that accomplishment meant to one's life then and over the years, would be appreciated.

Make sure to give your name, age, where you live, high school attended, year graduated, year of the state title and your role on that crowning achievement, as well as your reflections of that time.

We also want you to send us photos, or copies of photos, via email and identify who is in the photos so we can, if we want, use them with our story.

No matter what school state athletic title you won — swimming to wrestling, football to mountain biking, cross country to tennis, skiing to basketball, soccer to field hockey and golf to track and field, or any other activity —  it is worthy of reminiscing about.

So talk to us. Rather, email us.

Email sports@villagesoup.com with your reflections, comments, photos and videos.

Thank you — and congratulations on your past athletic accomplishments.

The following are initial submissions in the athlete's or coach's words:

Darrell Seekins, Searsport District High School cross country

Sixty-five-year-old Darrell Seekins lives in Searsport and attended Searsport District High School. He graduated in 1973 and was a member of the Viking cross-country team that won the state championship in 1972. He was a co-captain and the only senior on that team. Seekins finished third in the state race and led his team to its first state championship.

"My introduction to cross country in high school was because both of my older brothers ran cross country. That sounds like I came from a running background and it was inevitable, but that wasn't the case. My brothers ran cross country because the basketball coaches required their players to run so that they could get some preseason conditioning. There was no soccer in school at that time and the only other sport was golf. I was also in love with basketball and it was my main focus throughout high school.

"By my sophomore year, there began a trend where there were less guys on the team for alternate reasons other than just running and more who ran to run. I honestly don't know what their reasons were, but I'm glad they made that choice. Most of them were less-privileged and were tough as nails. I can still remember running next to them in practice when we'd push each other until one of us would practically drop from exhaustion. When I started high school, the 'running boom' hadn't yet happened in this country and there weren't a lot of recreational runners or good sources of training material available. No one trained in the off-season and our daily routine was to race each other two or three times on our course. Race days were welcomed because it meant only racing once for that day. I now know it wasn't the best training method, but that's what we did. Running shoes were pretty much non-existent and we usually ran in basketball sneakers or barefoot. During my junior year, one of our runners discovered track spikes, and soon we all got a pair to wear in races. What a difference it made to race in lightweight shoes with traction on grass.

"One of the memories I have from that championship race was that I sort of fell asleep in the race due to the fact that I was ahead of one of my teammates and I felt lost. The other co-captain of the team was Clarence Ward and he was the most amazing runner I've ever known in my 50-plus years of running. He was always ahead of me in races, but by the state meet, he had injured both Achilles' tendons and was barely able to walk, and yet he still was able to finish fourth in that race. His toughness and competitiveness has been an inspiration for me ever since that day.

"On the way home from the state meet after our win, our coach gave each of us $2 for our meal at McDonalds (although Clarence and I got $3). I'm guessing that the coach took $20 of his own money for that championship banquet. When I was playing basketball, when we went to the tournaments, we'd eat at Miller's Red Lion Restaurant at the school's expense, even when we lost. What a difference it makes in which sport you play.

"Winning that state championship was a terrific accomplishment for us and it was extremely satisfying for various reasons. Running cross country in high school was the beginning of my realization running was and still is my passion. I ran cross country and track at [University of Maine in Orono] where I had some of my best memories and friendships. Even though my body build (6 feet 1 inch, 185 pounds) was big for running, my work ethic and love for the sport made me successful at it. I ran a 9:16 two-mile and a 14:36 three-mile on the track as well as enjoying a highly-successful career in road racing and triathlons in the 1970s and 1980s. I enjoy running with other people and I also love running by myself. I would run numerous 100-plus-mile weeks in all kinds of weather, on roads, through the woods, around and over Mount Waldo and any place available.

"When people ask me why I choose to go out running and get tired, hot and sweaty, I always reply, 'Why, doesn't everyone?' "

Audra Caler, Mount View High School track and field

The 37-year-old Caler graduated from Mount View High School in 2001. "I was a three-time outdoor track state champion in the 3,200 meters (1999, 2000 and 2001) and one-time indoor track state champion in the 1,600 meters (2001), which was the first year Mount View ever had an indoor track team.

"A lot of the traits that are necessary for being a state-champion distance runner are also important for being successful in other areas of your life: you learn immediately that talent only gets you so far and you need to put in the time and the work to get to the top of what you do.

"The biggest thing I learned is that even in an individual sport, like track, the team of people supporting you are always key to your success. One picture I've attached is an old newspaper clipping that shows my coaches: Chris Kein, Vern Spinoza and Steve Sumi. Steve (also a Mount View graduate) was my first track coach when I was a freshman in high school. Even though I didn't excel this year he saw something in me and brought it to my attention that if I put in a bit of effort I could be just as good as the girls winning state championships. I decided to take Steve's advice and start running every day. This brought me to Chris Kein and Vern Spinoza. Chris was a multi-event, mutli-year Maine state long-distance champion. He put in countless hours doing interval training with me, talking with me about proper nutrition and traveling to meets with my family and I long past the end of the regular season. Vern was an amazing coach when it came to the mental side of sports; he taught me breathing and relaxation exercises and how to channel the nervous energy I felt before races into positive energy. I can honestly say that without these three coaches I never would have been a state champion. My parents, Shirely and Lynn Caler, were also key members of my team. They believed in me and supported me, despite how much my obsessive training inconvenienced their lives. My younger siblings Chelsea, Jenna and Gavin Caler also came to nearly all my meets and put up with the boredom of waiting around for hours to cheer on their big sister for a few minutes.

"Being a state champion in high school opened a lot of doors for me: I was offered scholarships to a lot of excellent colleges that my family would never have been able to afford otherwise. I ended up running cross country and track at Bowdoin College where I was an All-American and Maine State cross-country collegiate state champion for three years. I don't really run competitively anymore but I still love running and it remains as a huge part of my life (I run as much as I possibly can). When my job gets tough and life gets overwhelming I'll always have running and the lessons in perseverance I learned when pushing myself to excel at it."

Heather Ross, Belfast Area High School gymnastics

"I graduated from Belfast Area High School in 1993 and was a member of the team that won the Class B State Championship in gymnastics my freshman and sophomore years (1990 and 1991). As I was cleaning out my closet the other day I found my jacket that we received in honor of this win, and a flood of memories came piling back with it! That navy blue jacket with gold lettering and stiff white leather sleeves wrapped me in the same sense of accomplishment that it did 30 years ago!

"I started gymnastics when I was 4 and it was with me throughout my life. I competed as a freshman on the beam for that first championship and it was incredibly scary — I can remember the nerves, my skin tingling, the cold sweat I felt as a I stood in my leotard waiting for the judge to salute and I could begin. It felt like all eyes were on me as I gripped the beam, the pressure! Feeling completely shaken inside but displaying only a calm and confident exterior. I honestly can’t even remember how my performance went, but I remember being so proud to compete in this event as just a freshman. The following year was almost a whole new team, with many of our senior 'veterans' having graduated, but we had gained strong tumblers (Lee Parent of Kids Unplugged) and went after the title again, confident in our ability to achieve. We did it, and it was even more thrilling than the first time … I have a great picture of us (somewhere!) piling into the mat, congratulating each other and holding up our trophy.

"Gymnastics provided me with a strong foundation, focused on teamwork and hard work. While only one of us performed at a time, each of us felt the nerves of the others. We created motivational posters and little gift bags for each other, and braided each other’s hair into elaborate designs during the long bus rides. We bandaged each other’s sprained ankles and palms, ripped from the uneven bars. We were a team! Today I lead a team within the customer success organization at Athenahealth. I think many of the lessons I learned from my days on a sports team carry over into this role: that everyone brings a unique skill to the group, that we are more powerful as a team than as individuals, and that the victory is so incredibly sweet when you can celebrate it with others."

Rachel Coor, Rockland District High School cheering

"It’s hard for me to pass up an opportunity to talk about cheerleading. It’s even more difficult for me to pass up an opportunity to talk about my own cheerleading team. So when the Village Soup specifically asks for reflections on state championships, and I happened to be a coach of the last state championship ever won by a team at Rockland District High School before it merged with George’s Valley and became Oceanside, it’s downright impossible to pass up an opportunity to spill my guts out. So, here I am, nearly 18 years later, with those memories as crystal clear today as they were on that day in February.

"I remember sitting on the bleachers at the old Bangor Auditorium during awards. They announced second place, and we sat there as a team, heads down, holding hands, while we waited for the Poland Knights cheer team to receive their individual second-place awards. As the Knights cleared the gym floor, I leaned over to Dianne Grade and whispered, 'I think we did it.' She squeezed my hand back and said, 'I think we did too.'

"That team was special. I’m sure that every coach who’s ever won a state championship would say the same. I don’t think it’s possible to win a state championship, regardless of talent, without a special bond, a special chemistry, and a really special group of kids. But let me tell you, those kids were special. We were a team of 14. Ten females and four males, a rarity in high school cheerleading. Led by a trained gymnast, with two sets of siblings, just one senior, and a whole pack of juniors. In the summer before the 2003 season, we attended cheer camp as a full team, and, for the first time ever, won the 'Top Team' award. In hindsight, not a big deal, but at the time, it may have been the boost they needed to really believe how talented they were. And so began a season that was special.

"Cheer season is long. It’s grueling. We did double duty, trying to hone our own skills while also supporting both girls and boys basketball teams. Tensions run high, personalities clash, and sometimes different kids need different things. But one of the great things this team did was to sit in a circle when they were frustrated. They’d talk it out. But no one was allowed to talk without a football in their hands. Trevor Davis always brought the football. He’d speak, throw it to a teammate, they’d speak, and we’d continue passing the football until we’d all had our chance to give input. We also prayed. I hesitate to even mention that, knowing what I know now about the separation of religion and schools. But at the time, even for the kids who weren’t religious — who had never learned or spoken the Our Father — it was something that unified them, something that set them apart, and something that brought them peace before every competition.

"We practiced at 7 a.m. on New Year’s Day, because they wanted to hold each other accountable for New Year’s Eve. They also wanted to perform their routine for the first time on Jan. 2 at a basketball game. Forgive me for not remembering the team, but it must have been against Camden [Hills] or Medomak, [Valley] because the crowd was going to be good and they wanted to be ready.

"We took video with a camcorder, and they would gather on their own time to analyze practice video, frame by frame, so that they’d know what needed to be done during the next practice.

"I’d bet money that every kid on that team still remembers the backbone motto that we lived by. Once the season started, I read passages from a book to the kids nearly every practice. I’m a big fan of Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski, and his book 'Five Point Play' chronicled one of his championship seasons. The Xs and Os of the book weren’t really that important — obviously he’s not a cheer coach and probably never aspired to have his words analyzed so deeply by a cheer coach. But the story of that Duke championship season — the ups and downs, the lessons, the dynamics of the team, how they dealt with adversity, how they dealt with success — it just resonated so deeply with our kids for some reason. They looked forward to being read to at the end of practice. Sometimes in the middle of a particularly rough practice, they’d ask if they could take a break to read. Not because they were tired, but because they knew there were lessons to be found. We lived by The FIST – a Coach K favorite. 'There are five fingers on a fist, and each finger stands for an aspect of teamwork that cannot be completed without the other fingers. Communication, Trust, Collective Responsibility, Caring, and Pride. Each of them individually are strong, but together, they are unbeatable.' Every practice we talked about which part of the fist was complete, which part needed work, and how when it all came together, no one could beat us. And no one did. Not in a showcase, not in an exhibition, not at KVACs, or regionals, or states. It was, in essence, the perfect season.

"On top of that, I coached with my mom. It was our seventh year coaching together at Rockland, but really the culmination of about 20 years of studying the sport together. I literally don’t remember a time when cheerleading wasn’t a part of mine and my mom’s life together. What I didn’t know then, was that that season was really the end of a time when she’d be physically able to coach. Just a few short years later, she suffered a spinal cord injury that left her permanently disabled. A few years after that, she contracted flesh eating bacteria, which left her leg permanently disfigured. A few years after that, she contracted COVID-19. So, to say that I cherish the memory of running out onto the court from the bleachers with her when they called Rockland District High School as state champs, would be an understatement. I will never forget returning to the high school late that night, where we gathered with parents and a small group of administrators, with my mom making a speech. She thanked [athletic director] Brian Plourde, and then told the kids, “Today, your dreams came true. What you may not realize, is that in making your own dreams come true, you made ours come true too.”

"Eighteen years later, many of us are still in touch. We’ve congratulated each other on graduations, marriages, births of children … and we’ve sent love and prayers during loss, death, and life transitions. Life has brought us to all corners of the globe. Some went on to serve in the military, some are lawyers, nurses, and therapists, some are raising amazing families, some are business owners. Several went on to have successful collegiate cheerleading careers, and some have even joined my coaching staff for a year or two. A few still faithfully come to my current team’s pre-competition 'showcase,' which we hold every year before our first competition, and I always ask them to address my team, share a thought or a memory, and try to impress upon the kids that, despite the struggles, the pain, the grind … there is nothing more gratifying then hearing your school be announced as state champs. It truly is an unforgettable moment in time.

"As for me? I’ve continued to chase down more state championships as a coach. I succeeded, twice, in Denver. I’ve been close in Maine several times this decade. Honestly? I don’t know if it will happen again. My mom’s coaching years are done, but she continues to be my biggest fan at every competition, even if she has to be lugged up the bleachers in her wheelchair. We don’t talk about the 'glory days' much anymore, but we will never forget that it happened. And for that, I am forever grateful that I experienced it at least once … with that team … with those kids … with my mom … during that one magical season."

1981 Georges Valley soccer trailer
Coming soon, a new series titled: "THE GREAT EIGHT." A short documentary series on each of the eight Georges Valley High School state championship-winning boys soccer teams. Starting with the year 1981 and in no particular order. Complete with game highlights, newspaper clippings, former player interviews as well as coach Sam Pendleton. It will be a retrospective of Georges Valley Buccaneer boys soccer. The first installment will be released around Thanksgiving. (Video by: Dan Jacques)
Mount View's Audra Caler on the track. (Courtesy of: Audra Caler)
Story on Mount View's Audra Caler. (Courtesy of: Audra Caler)
Mount View's Audra Caler, right. (Courtesy of: Audra Caler)
Mount View coaches accept a award. (Courtesy of: Audra Caler)
State championship jacket from Belfast Area High School gymnastics. (Courtesy of: Heather Ross)
State championship jacket from Belfast Area High School gymnastics. (Courtesy of: Heather Ross)
The 1972 Searsport District High School cross-country state champions. (Courtesy of: Darrell Seekins)
Story on Searsport District High School cross country. (Courtesy of: Darrell Seekins)
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Comments (1)
Posted by: Doug Curtis Jr. | Nov 24, 2020 22:41

This is a great idea Ken. I remember Darrell from my days at Gannett Hall at UMAINE. I remember he used to get up and run 10 miles before morning classes and then run another 10 in the afternoon.  That is the mark of a true champion.  It is too bad we didn't have a cross country team in Gannett because we would have won that too.



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