At least for a moment, the Maine high school sports landscape has some normalcy. With a twist.

Teams took advantage Monday of the first eligible day of workouts, going through conditioning drills in the hopes of a season that may — or may not — be coming by September because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Waterville girls soccer team got to work early with a morning session. Well-spaced throughout the outfield of Gaul Field, players sprinted, crawled and mountain-climbed under the watchful eye of head coach Mark Serdjenian, who, along with his coaching staff, wore masks throughout the workout.

“I’m happy to be actually able to get together and do things,” Waterville senior Avery Wechsler said. “Because when you’re on your own, you don’t have your teammates motivating you. It’s just not the same. And going into senior year, we’re really excited to just be together and have that team feeling. I’m excited.”

“With the circumstances that we have, it’s definitely nice to at least have some type of team activity, even if we have to stay 6 feet apart and there is no soccer balls,” Waterville senior Ella Moody said. “At least us working out together is enough of a team thing to feel like a season.”

The Waterville girls soccer team jogs as coach Mark Serdjenian, center, directs the team during the first day of organized workouts for fall sports Monday in Waterville. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

Waterville players had individual workout packets to stay busy during the offseason, but the gathering allowed the team to at least get through one workout together and push one another.

“I think it’s good for them just to get together as a group and see each other and start moving,” Serdjenian said. “I think most of them have been doing stuff individually, but it’s different, even though it’s not competition, that you have your teammates to push you.”

The workouts are part of phase-structured guidelines instituted by the Maine Principals’ Association. Per the MPA guidelines, Phase 1 (July 6-19) is outdoor voluntary conditioning and agility training in pods — or groups — of 10 or less athletes. Phase 2 (July 20-August 2) is voluntary indoor strength, conditioning and agility. Phase 3 (August 3-16) is an extended conditioning and acclimatization period, allowing sport-specific drills. The fourth and final phase will be the official start to the fall sports season, at a date that has yet to be determined.

With a little more than a month to go before the usual start, the assurance of a fall sports season is still not guaranteed.

“There definitely is worry (about a season not happening),” Moody said. “I think the best thing we can do is just stay hopeful and think that we will have some sort of a regular season.”

“I think as long we continue to practice social distancing and be conservative about what we’re doing, maybe some day we will get a season that we want,” Wechsler said. “But if people aren’t going to follow the guidelines set in place, I don’t think we’ll ever get there.”

The Cony girls soccer team stretches out on the school’s track during the first day of organized workouts Monday in Augusta. Drew Bonifant/Kennebec Journal

At Cony, enough athletes opted to join the voluntary workouts that the school had to hold morning and afternoon sessions. Athletes from different sports worked out together in four pods on each corner of the Alumni Field track, rather than there being separate groups for each sport.

Football coach B.L. Lippert said it was nice to have a team activity to supervise after a spring and early summer without in-person contact.

“This is, for me, (great) to get up and have a sense of purpose. To get up at 7:30 and have somewhere to go, it was the first time in a while,” he said. “I think for them, this is a step in the return to normalcy. … To come out here and safely work out with your peers is a major step for them to kind of feel like kids again.”

Brothers Colin and Colten Manning, both juniors, were among Lippert’s players that attended.

“It’s good to see the boys again,” Colin said. “I haven’t seen some of these dudes in forever. Usually I would have school with them, (but) I haven’t been able to see a lot of them for two, three months, so it’s really special.”

At Gardiner, cross country and boys basketball and soccer worked out in the morning, while field hockey, football and volleyball met in the afternoon. Football coach Pat Munzing said he wasn’t sure how the day would go, but ended up getting 34 players split into six pods for a workout run by athletic trainer Kadeem Edge.

“The whole experience is positive,” lineman Quinton Martin said. “You’re working out your body so you’re starting to get back in shape, you’re starting to get ready, even if it’s not full-out, 1,000 percent running and all that. And at the same time, you’re seeing your buddies and getting back into the brotherhood that we’re all focused on.”

Winthrop field hockey players run past water bottles covered with face masks during the first day of organized workouts Monday in Winthrop. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

Winthrop field hockey had three small pods going for hour-long stints, starting at 4 p.m. and ending at 7.

“It definitely felt good to get back with some of the girls,” junior Maddie Perkins said. “We have such a good team and our girls bond so well together. I really hope (the season) doesn’t get canceled, because I know we can make it so far.”

Some coaches are waiting for the second or third phase before getting their team back on the field. Winslow field hockey coach Mary Beth Bourgoin used the virtual period in June — when coaches could reach out to players via Zoom meetings — to give her players their summer workout packets, which will keep them busy until they get together in August during Phase III. Still, it’s a change for the Black Raiders, the defending Class B champions, who would normally be scrimmaging this time of the year.

“We actually play games twice a week with a couple of weekend tournaments,” Bourgoin said. “That’s been my thing. I don’t necessarily get together and work on skills with them during the summer. When we get together, it’s to play games. I host a league (pre-coronavirus) on Monday night, normally, and then we play at Thomas (College) on Wednesday nights. The norm as far as the girls getting their workout, that happened like it has in the past, but not seeing them and not having a stick on the ball is something new for sure.”

Bourgoin said she went back-and-forth before ultimately deciding for her team to wait until Phase III.

“I know for us here in Winslow, we wanted to make sure we had everything, paperwork-wise, ready to go (for Phase I),” Bourgoin said. “From the checklist to the attendance sheets. I went back-and-forth personally. Do I have them show up 10 in a pod? My feeling was our time was going to be limited, because my superintendent wants to be sure that our trainer was with us, and it was a very limited time. I’ve got girls that have summer jobs, and there’s transportation. So I (told the team), ‘Continue with your workouts, you know what my expectation is. Go enjoy the Maine summer and be a kid. I’ll see you in August.'”

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