The Medomak Valley High School boys and girls track-and-field teams typically have their share of strong student-athletes who help the Panthers compete at the conference and state levels.

This year’s Panther squads should be no different, as veteran girls coach George Gould and second-year boys coach Jake Newcomb have a terrific mix of seasoned veterans and hungry underclassmen who are ready to sprint, jump and throw their way into contention in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference.

The 2009 Panther girls track team includes seniors Kiana Ocean (runner, 4×800 relay), Morgan Baum (shot put, discus, javelin), Taylor Keefe (runner, 4×800) and Lacy Massengale (runner, jumper, 4×100); juniors Selena Ding (runner, mile, two miles), Gwen Moiles (runner, 800, 1,600, 3,200, 4×800), Nicole Weaver (runner, 4×800), Megan Wyllie (runner, 4×800), Ashley Rackliff (runner, jumper), Laura Beal (runner, jumper), Katja Assfalg (runner, thrower) and Roxanne Jelenfy (sprints, throwing); sophomores Julie Ennamorati (running, long jump, 4×100) and Heidi Harris (runner, jumper); and freshmen Desiree Leary (runner, jumper), Abbie Vail (discus, jumper), Brianna Gross (distance), Jessica Prescott (runner, jumper), Kelsie Grady (800, 1,600, 3,200, jumper) and Emily Leach (runner, jumper).

The 2009 Panther boys track team includes seniors Pat O’Donnell (400, 800, 4×800, 4×400), Nate McBrien (javelin, 4×400, 4×800, long jump), Alex MacKenzie (long jump, triple jump, high jump, 4×100), Nate Meade (100, 200, long jump, 4×100), A.J. Baker (100, 200) and Alex Bobolla (shot put, discus, javelin, 100); juniors Joe Murphy (distance, 4×800), Will Ivey (shot put, discus, javelin), Quinton Vannah (100, 4×400, 4×100), Mike Gilman (4×400, shot put, javelin, 200) and Cody Neptune (100, 200, high jump, 4×100); sophomores Ian Rixon (racewalk, distance), Brendon O’Donnell (400, 800, 4×800, 4×400), Deering Genthner (100, 200, long jump, 4×100) and Russell Wood (shot put, discus, javelin, 100); and freshmen Ivan Johnson (distance), Daigan McKusic (100, 200, long jump, triple jump), Paul Brown (throwing), Jarin Cocco (shot put, discus, javelin, 100), T.J. Harriman (discus, javelin, shot put, 110 hurdles), Taylor Packard (distance), Jonathan Hendrickson-Belloguet (triple jump, long jump, 100, 4×100), Devon Sproul (100, 200, high lump, 4×100) and Nick Anderson (distance).

Among those lost to graduation last season were Ashley Coburn, Josh Anderson, Emily Davis, Eric Bissonette, Andrea James, Derek Booker, Sasha Kaufmann, Keith Foster, Charlotte Martin, Khalil Parker, Alysn Peddie, Justin Parmenter, Krista Rideout (David Rickards), Abbie Royer, Brandon Rubenstein, Joe Thibodeau and Chelsea Wochomurka.

Both Gould and Newcomb are excited from what they have seen from their respective teams thus far this year and hope that will translate into success as the season wears on.

“Practices have been pretty good so far,” said Newcomb. “As everyone knows, we got a good early start on outside practices with this great weather. This has really benefited the runners. They have gotten a real jump on the season. The field events are still just getting started because the fields and pits were still a little damp during the first week of practice. Once everything dries out completely it will be business as usual.”

“They’re coming to practice, working hard and the newer athletes are adjusting to us,” said Gould. “We’ve got a pretty good group of coaches for individualized instruction.”

While Gould is technically the girls coach, he works with the boys and girls in distance running such as the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 meters. Newcomb, who used to be an expert thrower during his high school days with neighboring Rockland helps athletes in that category, while another former Rockland graduate Nate Grade, who is a record holder for the Tigers in the 4X100 meter relay, is also on the staff as the assistant coach to both Gould and Newcomb. Dave MacMillan is the discus specialist, Ennamorati’s older sister is a specialist at both the long jump and triple jump and Bill O’Donnell assists with the hurdles. MacMillian is a former national champion in the discus event, while O’Donnell was an Olympic qualifier in the hurdles.

“We’ve got across the board real good technical people that the kids can take advantage of,” said Gould.

Gould has plenty to be excited about on the girls side, with his 4X800 meter relay team of Ocean, Wyllie, Keefe and Moiles, fresh off breaking the school record last season, returning in tact. He also has a strong thrower in Baum, who took first place honors in the javelin at the KVAC championships last year and is also strong in the discus and the shot put. Gould added that Baum is coming off knee surgery but plans to be cautious with her but that when she is healthy, “she is as good as there is in the KVAC.”

All five girls earned all-conference nominations last season, while Baum was also named the Don Matheson performer of the meet at the KVAC championships, given to the top athlete in the field events.

Gould feels his team will be competitive in middle distance and long distance events, along with the 4×400 and 4×800 relays.

“After that it will come down to the sprint kids and jumpers and how well they do and how well some of the new freshmen step in and do,” said Gould. “But if we can get some help from the sprinters and the jumpers we should be a very strong team.”

For the boys, Newcomb is blessed with a group of strong distance runners, which he credits Gould for.

“We are very lucky here at Medomak Valley to have a solid distance program year in and year out, and I think coach Gould has a lot to do with that,” he said. “Pat O’Donnell has been an incredible athlete for Medomak Valley, and this being his final season, I think he’ll be a lot of fun to watch. His brother Brendon O’Donnell, who turned some heads in cross-country, is a solid addition to our distance program this year as well. Junior Joe Murphy is a talented runner and will be a solid contributor and freshman Nick Anderson has the ability to run a good race as far as I can tell.”

However the strength of this year’s team he feels will be his sprinters, given the depth he has at the position. He added that his 4×100 relay team of MacKenzie, Parmenter, Meade and Genthner should be competitive, and newcomers Sproul and Hendrickson-Belloguet should also contribute as both sprinters and jumpers. Also, Gilman, Cocco, Harriman also figure to be factors for the Panthers.

Overall, both Gould and Newcomb feel their squads should be right in the thick of things come seasons end, but both agree on which team should be the perennial powerhouse of the KVAC.

“Waterville is always tough,” said Gould.

“As always, Waterville will be the team to beat in the KVAC Class B,” said Newcomb. “Behind them you have your Belfast’s and Winslow’s, and I think we’ll probably fall somewhere in the mix behind those teams.”

With both the boys and girls teams both strong and holding a positive outlook on their respective 2010 seasons, no one would be surprised to see the Panthers in the thick of things come season’s end.

“My goal for this year’s team is to stay competitive and stay healthy throughout the regular season,” said Newcomb. “If we win a meet on the way, that would be great, but as long as they stay healthy and are prepared both mentally and physically for the KVAC and state meets, I’ll be happy.”

“I’m very happy with the kids, very happy with the team and I’m proud to be coaching them. If hard work and dedication will get us to the top of the ladder, then that’s where we’ll be because they’ve been giving me nothing but 100 percent effort so far,” said Gould.

The Panthers begin the regular season on Thursday, April 15 at 3:30 p.m. at Camden Hills in Rockport.

VillageSoup sports staff can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by e-mail at sports@villagesoup.com.