Field conditions have improved slightly since high school pitchers and catchers reported for practice a week earlier than their spring counterparts. But there’s still a long way to go and a lot of snow to melt.
Cony High School athletic director Paul Vachon welcomed about 250 athletes Monday for the official opening of spring practice and had time in the gymnasium scheduled from early afternoon until 8 p.m.
“Every single team we have will be in the gym today,” Vachon said.
That includes boys and girls tennis, track and lacrosse as well as baseball and softball. The Rams make the most of their available space, which includes an auxiliary gym, a large hallway in which to warm up and a weight room available after practice. But there’s no substitute for getting outside.
Toward that end, teams and workers are clearing snow. At Hall-Dale High School, about 40 team members shoveled the track.
“We got about 200 meters of the track shoveled off,” coach Jarod Richmond said “They accomplished that in about 45 minutes. It was a good first day workout.”
Richmond said there’s still an inch to an inch and half of ice left on the shoveled portion of the track, but the idea was to let the sun get at it.
“It kind of gives us a place where we can work outside for awhile,” Richmond said. “Gym time is at a premium right now.”
Waterville track coach Ian Wilson welcomed 72 boys and girls Monday, many of whom contributed to Class B state championship teams last spring. Most remained inside while others got outside.
“Our distance runners did,” Wilson said. “They went for a road run, they usually do.”
Wilson is cautious about clearing Waterville’s track because of potential damage, and he’s also had a lot of experience with indoor practices.
“We’re set up pretty well because we have a pretty strong indoor track program,” he said. “We just kind of go into indoor track mode.”
The six tennis courts at the Buker Center are relatively clear after Augusta city workers cleared them with snowblowers last week. The softball field at Cony High was also cleared although a layer of crust remains at both venues.
“We have grass spots on the outfield,” Vachon said.
Turf fields are faring slightly better. The Maine Lax Challenge, a girls high school play day in its fifth year, moved outdoors to Thomas College last year with no problem. With the tournament scheduled for Saturday, there’s still ice on the school’s two turf fields.
“We have potentially 16 teams coming,” Cony girls coach Gretchen Livingston said. “That’s a third of the girls lacrosse teams in the state. They’re going to get at least one field cleared so we can have scrimmages on half the field.”