Devin Burgess started competing at an early age. Whether he was racing his father to the car or challenging him to see who could tie their shoes faster, the Waterville senior has always been driven to be the best.
“It got to the point when I wouldn’t let anyone beat me,” Burgess said. “Even walking down the hall, if I’m walking side by side with someone, I will not let that person get in front of me. I’ll always be a stride ahead.”
The competitive drive has translated nicely into track and field for Burgess. This winter, he won the Class B state championship in the pole vault, finished second in the long jump and seventh in the 55-meter hurdles. For his outstanding season, Burgess has been named the Morning Sentinel Boys Indoor Track and Field Athlete of the Year. Mt. Blue’s Justin Tracy, who won the Class A title in the mile, was also considered.
Burgess said that competitive drive helps him most during meets, giving him a little something extra on his final attempt, when he might be tired and distracted.
It pays dividends in other ways as well. Burgess has shown an intense desire to learn about his sport and perfect his events. He might not be the most physically gifted athlete, but his understanding of technique and his ability to put what he has learned into use is what seperates him, according to Waterville coach Ian Wilson.
“In the long jump, he is one of the most technically sound athletes I’ve ever had,” Wilson said. “He might not have the speed that some of the 21 or 22 foot long jumpers we’ve had do, but technically, what happens in that millisecond when you are at the board, not many have done that better.”
Burgess just missed that 21 foot mark at the state championship, finishing second with a leap of 20-feet, 9-inches.
It is in the pole vault, however, that Burgess really shines. He has consistently improved throughout his career to go from a 12-foot vaulter to challenging the state record of 14-0.7. Burgess attempted 14-1 at the state meet and fell just short, grazing the bar and knocking it off.
Burgess made his record breaking attempt on a new pole which he hadn’t vaulted on before. He’d hope to use it at the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference championship meet, but a snowstorm forced that meet to be postponed.
“The old one was soft and didn’t have a lot of spring and his new one was stiff and he didn’t have the confidence with that,” Wilson said. “That takes time and it hurt him immensely. He had a real good shot at states if he had one more tuneup meet.”
Added Burgess: “I was in the air looking down on it. I thought I had cleared it, but I didn’t. I didn’t finish my vault and I didn’t quite get it.”
Wilson is confident that because of Burgess’s work ethic and technical ability, that Burgess could become a 15-16-foot pole vaulter in college. Burgess is a student of track and field, seeking out video on the best in his event.
“I’ve always been told if you want to be really good, you need to be a student of the event and learn from people who are better than you,” Burgess said. “I take the initiative to watch better people and see how they do it. I spend a lot of time researching Olympics and high school nationally ranked or college nationally ranked athletes.”
Burgess hopes to attend the University of Maine to study engineering and compete on the track and field team, because competing is what he does best. Just ask his dad.