By Tony Myatt
Middle school track and field at the Portland Expo celebrated a landmark birthday this year.
The Southern Maine Middle School Athletic Conference Indoor Track and Field League began in 1959 after the Southwestern Maine High School Track Conference purchased a brand new wooden portable track with banked curves, a measured distance of 140 yards per lap.
There were four original members when the league first started: King, Lincoln, Lyman Moore, and Jack Junior High Schools. The league holds four weeks of regular season meets, followed by an End of Season Meet.
Field events include shot put and high jump and running events offered are 150, 240, 300, 440, 600, 1,000-yards, 1-mile, and relay races.
There are also the 40-yard dash and 45-yard hurdles that are run on the basketball courts in the center of the Expo.
The league has different divisions for athletes based on their age, but primarily sixth graders are junior division, seventh graders are intermediate division and eighth graders are senior division. Until 1982, when junior high schools were grades seven through nine, freshman from Cheverus, Westbrook and Deering High Schools competed in the league. The Freshman division was discontinued in 1983 and its division records were retired. Along with this change Jack Junior High, one of the original members, became an elementary school, causing them to discontinue their team.
From when the league began until 1985, the middle school meets took place before the high school meets in January and February. Since 1985 the meets have taken place throughout March on most Friday evenings and Saturdays. Beginning in 1995, the league split into two conferences, one for nine Greater Portland Schools and another for eleven Cumberland County Schools with smaller teams. Current members in the Cumberland County Conference include Falmouth, Cape Elizabeth, Thornton Academy, Saco, Biddeford, Greely, Scarborough, Poland, Yarmouth, Southern Maine Catholic (a team with athletes from St. Brigid’s, Cathedral, and Holy Cross Grammar Schools) and St. James Middle Schools.
Current members of the Greater Portland Conference include Bonny Eagle, Windham, Gorham, Mahoney, Memorial, King, Lincoln, Lyman Moore and Wescott Middle Schools. The SMMSAC Indoor Track and Field League is the largest interscholastic sports league in Maine with currently over 1,700 athletes from 20 schools. It also is the only middle school indoor track league in the state of Maine.
Several records fell to local athletes this year. The Junior 600 was lowered to 1 minute, 39.9 seconds by Hayley Doss of Cape Elizabeth. The Intermediate boys’ 40 was tied at 5.0 seconds by Chhorda Cahoen of Lincoln. The Junior girls’ shot put was set at 33 feet, 9 inches by Michelle Medici from Memorial. The open 1,000 mark is now held by Edi Palozzi from King 2:55.1.
Boys from King also set a new record in the Relay 1:14.2.
Fifty years after the first junior high meet, the Expo still booms with coaches, athletes, officials, and fans making it the place to be on weekends in March.