With passion for weighty events, Rancourt tosses in trip to AustraliaFormer Medomak Valley student-athlete excels in discus, shot put, javelin
Waldoboro — A couple of years ago, Ariele Rancourt developed a passion for throwing things, namely the discus, shot put and javelin in track and field. And the 18-year-old Medomak Valley High School graduate recently took her tossing talents down under — way down under, namely to Australia.
Rancourt, who went on her lengthy trip to Australia June 30 through July 8 through the organization DownUnderSports, had been a tennis player for the Panthers but switched to track and field a few years back and discovered her passion in the throwing or weight events.
For a young woman who also plays football, the reasons how she so quickly developed the strength, balance, thrust, concentration and technique to consistently succeed in the throwing events has, well, been elusive. But she is plenty good at it.
"I can’t tell you why I have succeeded in my events, but I can tell you that the track-and-field coach really wanted me to play for him, so I stopped tennis after two years and decided to do track and field," she said. "I love it. I’m am so glad that chose to do this sport. I have always been fairly muscular [from a young age] … and then this year I played football, so I definitely think both has helped me."
Some of Rancourt's best throws in her events are 95 feet and 1 inch in the discus, 32-1 in the shot put and 88-6 in the javelin.
She experienced another strong outdoor track-and-field season for the Panthers in the spring and then made her trip to Australia. Unfortunately, a knee injury prior to her trip hampered her performances Down Under.
The Down Under Track & Field Meet was a three-day international competition with athletes from the United States, Australia and other nations. The meet was in its 13th year and is the largest high school-age international meet held in Australia each year. In 2013, the meet took place at Griffith University, Gold Coast Campus July 5-7 with an opening and closing ceremony.
The competition facility was renovated as a training ground for the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia.
"The trip was amazing," said the future University of New England student, adding that she did, however, face adversity, both before and during the trip.
"Almost every flight had something wrong with it on the way to Australia and on the way back home," Rancourt said. "I was injured a week before I left when I had gone on a trailblazer program at UNE. A trailblazer program is something a new student can participate in before their orientation. But because I was injured they had to send me home. When I got the doctors OK to go to Australia I was stoked. But, I hadn't been doing anything to get ready for track and field in Australia because I was on crutches. I didn't do horrible in the track meets. I had thrown discus, javelin and shot put, but I didn't do close to how I wanted to do.
"Once I was injured it was more about the experience of the whole entire trip than anything else. I got to meet people from all over the country ... and because of all the flight cancellations and delays, I was the only track-and-field member that got to meet the whole DownUnderSports wrestling team [as] I flew to Australia with them. The funny part was that they all thought I was a wrestler too; all of them even asked me how I did in states. I also met some pretty awesome track-and-field athletes too.
"Also, in the meet, we got to compete against athletes who competed in the Olympics — talk about awesome. Every athlete was really good though, so there was a lot of competition, but I never came in last, so I guess that's something to be proud about."
Considering her knee injury and inability to practice before the trip, Rancourt performed well. In fact, in the women's ages 18-19 group, she finished 17th among 20 in the shot put (7.71 meters or 25-3 feet), 19th among 25 in the discus (24.96 meters or 81-10 feet) and 14th among 19 in the javelin (22.10 meters or 72-6 feet). Her distances were not nearly as far as her seed distances of 9.80 (32-1 feet) for the shot put, 29.0 (95-1 feet) for the discus and 27.0 (88-6 feet) for the javelin.
The winning distances in those events at the meet were 12.09 meters in the shot, 45.59 meters in the discus and 39.92 meters in the javelin.
Rancourt, who will attend UNE to study medical biology/pre-dental, said she injured her knee while volunteering during an orientation at UNE. "Ten tables had fallen on me and my knee had instantly swelled and bruised. I had gone to the emergency room and they wrapped my knee up and I was on crutches. When I had gone to the specialist he said that I only had soft tissue swelling; I really lucked out. My knee was just huge and I wasn't able to bend my knee completely; and I also didn't have great balance on my right leg. I'm still really lucky that I was able to still compete, even though I didn't do my best and I was lucky to still be able to go to Australia with a minor injury."
Rancourt had to raise more than $5,500 for the trip. "It is in Australia because the guy who originally started the program went back and forth between the countries. I remember reading something about the guy … This [was] my first time ever traveling anywhere — that’s not in Maine — to compete in track and field."
Rancourt said her favorite event is shot put.
DownUnderSports contacted Rancourt to represent Maine in track and field for the Eastern Seaboard conference when that group traveled to Australia. The United States is split into three to five conferences.
For more information on DownUnderSports, go online to downundersports.com/sports/track-field.
594-4401, extension 114
Ken Waltz has been member of the media 30 years and has received hundreds of Maine Press Association and New England Press Association awards for his writing, photography and page design. He 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.
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