Mt. Ararat boys’ lacrosse coach Matt Haskell gathers his team during a 2019 game. The Eagles can begin practicing on March 29. The Times Record file photo

High school sports in Maine last had traditional postseason tournaments in winter 2019-20 thanks to the coronavirus pandemic.

That will soon change, after the Maine Principals’ Association — while working with state agencies — announced Friday that it will offer regional and state championships for baseball, softball, lacrosse, tennis, and outdoor track and field.

The news came as a welcomed relief for Midcoast spring sports coaches and athletes.

“I am definitely going to have to dust off my glove and get back in the groove of things, considering it’s almost been two years,” said Brunswick senior Hannah Fortier, who plays on the softball team. “With basketball feeling a lot different without Heal points and playoffs, it’s exciting that softball will have a little more normalcy to it this season.”

The MPA gave the proverbial green light to spring sports because the state modified the risk levels in its Community Sports Guidelines on Friday. Sports that are considered “moderate risk,” such as baseball, softball, lacrosse and track, now will be able to include “in-person competitions between teams in different geographic areas within Maine.”

Tennis is regarded as a “low risk” sport and is able to conduct competition against teams from other states.

The Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, which oversees the Community Sports Guidelines, stated in a news release that “the Maine Principals’ Association has committed to aligning its guidance for school sports with this revised guidance for community sports.”

Pitchers and catchers will begin practicing March 22, with the rest of spring athletes starting practice on March 29. Competitions are scheduled to begin on April 15.

Ethan Upham of Brunswick has been staying in shape during basketball season in advance of the upcoming lacrosse season. He said he’s been encouraging his teammates to get ready as well.

“There may be a bit of an adjustment period when we get back to practice, but the boys have been working hard to stay in shape in hopes that we’d hear this news,” said Upham, who will continue his academic and lacrosse career at Wheaton College. “The young group of underclassmen have been working hard and are determined to carry on the Brunswick lacrosse winning mentality and it’s great to see.”

Added Morse junior Kennedy St. Pierre, who runs on the school’s outdoor track team: “I think so many athletes and coaches, including myself, are going to be very excited and relieved. I had great optimism that this season would look at least a lot like the fall and I’m excited to hear that it’s even better than what I’d hoped for.”

Morse softball coach Wilfred Laffley, who is also an assistant for the girls basketball team, said the news Friday was a long time coming. 

“This is awesome for our student-athletes, but I am also curious to see how they play considering it’s been so long,” Laffley said. “It may take some time for the players to transition back into the right mindset with no postseason play occurring since last winter.”

Due to last season being canceled, freshmen who are now sophomores never got the opportunity to show their skills in the spring. Laffley is looking forward to seeing what the underclassmen can provide.

“We are going to have a lot of new faces in the program and will need to see what they bring to the program,” added Laffley. “There will be more of a feeling-out process during the first couple of weeks to see where everyone is.”

Mt. Ararat baseball player Ryan Robertson said he, too, is excited and ready to go.

“While everyone is feeling a little bit better than before now that we know what’s at stake, we are still going to continue to take the same approach that we always do,” said Robertson. “With the playoffs back in play, that remains the goal.”

MTA baseball coach Brett Chase is excited for the players, but like Laffley, knows it may be a ‘feeling-out process’ during the first couple of weeks.

“It will take some time to get them back up to speed, conditioning is likely to be an issue as we start,” he said. “We will take our time to ramp up activities as we go and get our feet under us. I’m just so excited for the kids; I know they are craving competition and want to strive for a common goal.”

Mt. Ararat softball player Jaden Lohr said she is grateful to just have a season.

“It’s going to be interesting to pick up where we left off with an empty year in between,” said Lohr. “We definitely want to compete to the best of our abilities while having fun, but we’re just so happy and grateful to have the opportunity.”

Mt. Ararat tennis coach Jack Rioux is entering his second year. This season will be his true first season because of the pandemic.

“I’m just excited to actually get out on the court and coach them opposed to virtual meetings,” said Rioux, who also coaches the boys soccer team. “With Heal points and championships on the line, I know my players are going to come out with a competitive fire.”

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