“I didn’t know what event I wanted to do and so…he just threw me in the mile, and it ended up, I didn’t lose until the freshman year of high school,” redshirt fourth-year Jesse Orach said.
Although he originally starting running in seventh grade because he didn’t make the middle school basketball team, running has become much more than a backup sport for Orach. One thing that has not changed is his success at it.
In his fifth and final season as a runner for the Black Bears, having redshirted his first year, Orach has started the season off winning. His first win of the season came in the first home meet against West Point and the second at the University of Massachusetts Minuteman invitational. In the third meet of the season at the Coast-to-Coast Battle, Orach placed 15th giving the team a fifth place finish out of 15 schools. And to think it all happened because his middle school coach needed someone to run the mile, giving Orach a start in distance running.
“It was really lucky because he could have thrown me in any event and I probably would have stuck with it, I was kinda lucky that he put me in the mile,” Orach said.
Orach was injured before the start of the season during his first year at UMaine, forcing him to sit out as a redshirt, which in retrospect he describes as a blessing in disguise, allowing him to build up the strength and giving him this fifth and final year to compete.
“It was a testament to his natural ability that he could run so well in outdoor track without running the rest of the year,” Head Coach Mark Lech said. “Sometimes it works out that way, with him instead of me convincing him that he needs to take a year off freshman year.”
Taking advantage of this last year of eligibility, Orach and Lech have set some high goals for the season.
“The biggest goal is for the team to win the America East championship, which would mean I would have to get first,” Orach said. “Individually I would like to get one of the school’s records, I think the indoor 5K might be the most obtainable, but it will still be tough to do.”
From the start of the season, these goals seem in sight. Orach’s teammates have noticed that this year is already a faster year for him.
“This is my fourth year with Jesse [Orach] and it has been a pleasure training and competing with him. There are few tougher competitors,” fourth-year Levi Frye said. “Jesse came alive last year after he put up a lot more mileage and thus made himself a much smaller target to catch for us.”
Training over the summer is always one of the key components of cross country. Since so much of their training has to happen before the team comes together, Orach and the other runners are required to put in miles over the summer so they come back to school ready to compete. Sometimes when the runners train too hard in the summer they end up injured similar to how Orach was his first year.
“I’ve known Orach since my junior year of high school. And since he’s remained injury free, he’s seen a spectacular climb to the top, leading our team in races,” fourth-year Lucas Bourget said.
Although this is Orach’s last season running as a Black Bear, that doesn’t mean it’s his last season running.
“The Boston Marathon is on my bucket list, but I won’t be doing that in the next couple years,” Orach said.
As he finished this last year as a Black Bear, he will leave a legacy as one of Maine’s top runners.
“I think he can be top three all time at the University of Maine,” Lech said.