Mother Nature's early-winter wrath leaves many itching to get back in gameAthletic administrators left scratching their heads, making lots of phone calls
By comparison, the basketball courts, wrestling mats, swimming pools, indoor tracks and ice hockey rinks have been significantly more quiet than in recent winters, thanks to a number of problems generate by Mother Nature and thrown at schools, not only in the Midcoast, but throughout the state.
Multiple snowstorms, frozen and bursting water pipes, well issues, power outages, horrible driving conditions or a combination of all of the above have factored in to many area schools having to significantly alter their respective athletic schedules numerous times in the past several weeks.
Cancellation and postponement policies among Regional School Units vary, but the majority of schools have been forced to postpone or cancel a bundle of high school events, including games and practices.
Searsport boys basketball coach R.J. Robertson said Dec. 27 his team hasn't “had a meaningful practice in maybe 12 days” and have not played a game since Dec. 16.
Robertson said after a game against Deer Isle-Stonington was postponed, RSU 20 gave them the go-ahead to run optional practices.
“I had most of my guys there, but it was optional so we didn't go too in-depth,” he said. “We've been in the gym as a team maybe three times in a week and a half.”
With recently postponed games Thursday and Friday, Jan. 2-3, the Vikings have not played a game in 18 days.
RSU 20, which encompasses Searsport District High School and Belfast Area High School, along with other elementary and middle schools, have aired on the side of caution more often than not in the past few weeks, postponing games due to not only inclement weather, but due to pipes bursting and power outages.
“We haven't been in that school [BAHS] for any organized activities since the Oceanside games on the 19th [of December],” Belfast athletic director Terry Kenniston said several days ago. “We've been 10, 12 days with minimal to no practices.”
Kenniston said he expects “[lack of] conditioning is going to be an issue” for his student-athletes.
“Now when we go to compete, I think we're at a huge disadvantage,” Kenniston said. “You take 10 days off conditioning, working on skills or any of those things, and not being able to do that other than on their own [makes it tough]."
Mount View High School in Thorndike has not been without its share of problems. In a varsity doubleheader on Friday, Dec. 27 against Medomak Valley, the school lost power as the Panthers were en route by school bus and more than halfway from Waldoboro to Thorndike.
“We went off generators just a little bit before game time,” said Mount View athletic director Chuck Karter. “We were in auxiliary mode up until the teams were ready to go. We'd made all the preparations to accommodate a game running on generator power.”
Karter said he would have played the game on generators, though power eventually restored before the start of the day's first game at 1 p.m.
“It was exciting,” said Karter. “It was touch-and-go for a while, but our custodial maintenance staff were making preparations to run on limited power. But we were ready. We had battery backup for the scoreboard if we needed them, the lights were going to be on and that's really all we would have needed. Two teams, lights and the officials.”
The Panthers also have had a tumultuous go of it in recent weeks with many postponements and cancellations, due largely to issues with the school's well leaving them without water at times over the past few weeks, in addition to the inclement weather seen throughout the state.
“This has probably had the biggest impact on the coaches and the kids, more importantly,” said Medomak Valley athletic director Matt Lash. “The issues that we've been having with the water just kind of compounds it.”
Lash called it “the most chaotic two weeks I've had to deal with as far as canceling games.”
“I was at home Monday morning [Dec. 23] when we canceled the [Medomak Valley] Holiday Classic,” he said of the annual booster club fundraising exhibition basketball tourney. “It all kind of started around quarter of seven [in the morning] and toward the end of the day I looked at my cell phone and I had 77 calls that I had made.”
Camden Hills varsity boys basketball coach Jeff Hart said his team has not been as affected as other schools, though the “limited practice time is frustrating.”
“It's my favorite part of coaching, and it's hard going into games feeling like you're not as prepared as you could be,” he said. “We've been lucky so far with games. We're on schedule, so that's a plus for us. The other nice thing is that my kids have been working out at the [Penobscot Bay] YMCA and staying sharp with their individual games, so that helps.”
Wrestling teams actually have lost scheduled meets. While basketball games are almost always made up due to Heal Point ramifications, wrestling meets are not often made up because a team's regular-season record does not matter when the league, regional and state meets are held. That is true of swimming and indoor track as well, where the onus is more on the individual student-athlete's records or qualifying times/distances/heights, etc.
With all the postponements in December, the flipside of the coin shows a very busy month ahead for area schools, particularly on the basketball courts.
“When you start stacking games up, there's only a certain number of playable dates in a high school basketball season and they really can't be extended because the Maine Principal Association books the tourney at a certain day and time and they need everything completed by that certain day and time,” said Oceanside athletic director Jim Leonard. “So the onus is on the ADs to make it happen and sometimes you've got to get creative.
“At this point in the year, we'll try to get them played anyway we can," Leonard said.
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Mark has been covering local sports throughout Knox, Waldo and part of Lincoln county since 2007. Haskell, who is also the host of VStv's Sports Fix Roundtable, has a bachelor's degree in Mass Communication from the University of Maine and is also a 2000 graduate of Rockland District High School.
Mark loves the Boston Red Sox, fantasy sports, iced coffee and the AMC drama "Breaking Bad."
He resides in Thomaston with his wife Jenn, his sons Beckett and Austin and daughter Lila.
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