Mt. Blue’s Emma Charles (611) and Kahryn Cullenberg (614), Maranacook’s Jenna Badeua (542), Bangor’s Lydia Gilmore (409) and Edward Little’s Payton Bell (474), are among early leaders during the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference cross country championships last season at Cony High School in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

There is plenty of uncertainty surrounding the high school sports fall season.

Will there be a high school sports season? And, if so, what will it look like? Already, conversations about swapping some fall and spring sports are occurring, both at the state and national levels.

In one proposal floated by Brewer athletic director David Utterback, traditional fall sports such as football and soccer could be played in the spring. Baseball and softball, meanwhile, could be played in the fall.

But two fall sports — golf and cross country — might prove to be the easiest ones to play out while abiding by social distancing measures.

Golf is already taking place throughout the state after reopening with success. People have also been getting outside more during the pandemic, running on roads, trails and more. 

If Maine is able to reopen schools in August, golf and cross country coaches across the state are eager to get their seasons off and running. 

“Me and the golf coaches are getting them ready for fall golf,” Mt. Ararat golf coach Gerry Caron said. “If it happens, great, if it doesn’t, we will make adjustments. There are talks of playing in the spring but golf not so much because they could play in the fall. We have to be flexible and adapt.”

Many coaches, from football to golf, are operating with the mindset of having a season in the fall.

“I am of the same mindset because we don’t know for sure, let’s go ahead and plan and prepare for the middle of August like we usually do,” Morse golf coach Mike Dutton said. “Will they switch all sports or just the contact sports? Make a decision and the coaches will go with it. Kids are missing sports and getting together and we are hoping for a season in the fall. I don’t see any reason why they wouldn’t, kids have already been playing.”

Transportation is a key factor in bringing back sports, but golf teams normally have low numbers.

“Going to these other communities will be fine as long as they are aware of what’s going on,” Caron said. “We take eight kids, 10 including me and the bus driver, they go off in foursomes and it’s like playing golf right now. You have to be very cognizant of who is near you. Everyone around the state knows the situation and deals with it that way but if anyone could pull it off, it would be golf.”

The Mt. Ararat golf team poses for photos after winning the Class A state title last season in Vassalboro. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

Cross country faces a few challenges as well. Normally, teams carry a lot more athletes than a golf team, so transportation can be a challenge. 

“There are all sorts of things you could come up with and if you could have a fall sport then I think definitely cross country could do it,” Mt. Ararat cross country coach Diane Fournier said. “I am very good friends with the bus director at Mt. Ararat and you can only have 12 kids to a bus, so the biggest issue you come up with is you’d have to probably have parents bring kids to the meets. Saturdays would have to probably be most of the meets. There are so many things you don’t think about when it’s going well.”

Lisbon cross country coach Jeremy Williams said his team hasn’t taken a bus in six years. 

“We take a van when we go to a meet because our school is so small,” Williams said. “We haven’t taken a bus in like six years, so now we are crammed into a van so what does that look like now? That’s going to be a huge adjustment.”

Just like in other sports, regional schedules have been suggested in cross country. Williams supports that as it brings in new competitors his runners don’t always see. 

“I’ll be all for it,” Williams said. “It actually helps competition-wise and it gives them a chance to see new competition. We went to Fryeburg last year and some of those teams we never see so it was cool to see how we match up with the rest of the state. Having different varieties is always good to have.”

As for the races, Fournier suggested wave starts, with the top few from each team running first, followed a few minutes later by a second group. 

“What you could do is, you can’t send, I have 25 guys and so I wouldn’t send them all out at once,” Fournier said. “Take the top three to five kids, if you have 10 kids on the starting line they go out at zero minutes, 11-20 then five to 10 minutes later and you add on that amount of time. I think that could work but not large groups.”

Brunswick cross country coach Dan Dearing is ready for a season in the fall, as well. He said the most important part of all of this is communication between coaches, athletic directors, the Maine Principals’ Association, and the state. If everyone can be kept in the same loop, then Dearing and the team will be able to adjust as needed. 

“In track and cross country, us coaches are so used to a new rule change and we roll with it,” Dearing said. “Speaking with my runners, they’re saying, ‘Listen, we are so lucky to be possibly doing this and that any race could be our last race and so this is the time to be thinking we are going into the season and we are going to have a season, not a time to lay off.’ It’s really nice to see leadership from our older kids.”


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