Remember the scenes.

It’s the first thing you’re taught as a sports writer, and for good reason. They’re what we live to capture because they’re what makes the moments so special, much more so than the numbers, box scores and decimal points that try to quantify the games we love.

I think about that a lot every year as I reflect on the year that was in sports. After all, there will be certain things that we remember forever, but if we’re smart, the brackets, the stats and the numerical details will be mere footnotes to the way the action that produced those details made us feel.

2022 began in an environment that, though largely joyous once again, wasn’t quite the full return to the pre-pandemic norm. They’re scenes none of us, no matter what we think of the past three years of our lives, will ever forget when we look back years from now at old social media posts, newspaper clippings or other mementos of an unprecedented time in human history.

More importantly, though, we’ll remember why we endured the hardships of last winter. It was to see Cooper Flagg, an unparalleled athlete in Maine high school history, bring fans to their feet with spectacular dunks and swats en route to the Nokomis boys basketball team’s first-ever Gold Ball; it was to see the Hall-Dale and Skowhegan girls teams complete unbeaten runs to state titles; it was to see wrestlers return to the mats after experiencing the devastation of a lost season in 2020-21. 

Nokomis’ Cooper Flagg (32) dunks with authority against Brewer during the Class A North boys basketball final on Feb 25, 2022 at the Augusta Civic Center. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

I can’t tell you everything you’d like to know about those moments — partly because I wasn’t in the central Maine area until April. Yet the memories from the returns of fans to venues, tourney time to Maine winter life, head-to-head swim meets and more will be more important to us than who scored the most points, who had the fastest times or who recorded the most pins.


Then, of course, there’s what I can tell you after a tenure with the Morning Sentinel and Kennebec Journal that began with a rainy track meet at Hall-Dale eight months ago. I don’t remember the details of who ran the fastest or who jumped the highest, but I’ll always remember that a cold spring day was instead defined by the warmth and kindness of the people there to someone nervous about his first assignment in a brand-new setting.

AUGUSTA, ME – FEBRUARY 8: SkowheganÕs Jaycee Christopher dribbles during a basketball game Tuesday February 8, 2022 in the Ryan Family Gym at Cony Middle and High School in Augusta.(Staff photo by Joe Phelan/Staff Photographer) Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

From there, I’ll remember the scenes of a warm summer, one that began with state titles for Winslow boys track and Gardiner and Hall-Dale softball; I’ll remember Jaycie Christopher reflecting on making history as the first person to win both Miss Basketball and Miss Softball; I’ll remember scenes from a hot late-July stretch that included French Canadians taking over Augusta for the Ironman Triathlon for an entire weekend and the joy of fans and drivers as racing returned to Unity Raceway after five years.

If you know me, though, you’ll know my favorite season is fall — and fall means football. I’ll remember the Friday nights in Fairfield, Madison Skowhegan and Winthrop and the Saturday afternoons in Waterville and Winslow; I’ll remember a Skowhegan team with enormous hype living up to expectations by ending a 44-year state championship drought; I’ll remember the joyous scenes of emotional Colby College fans and players rushing the field after their team beat Bates for their fourth consecutive win in the rivalry.

Winthrop field hockey coach Sharon Coulton looks on during the Class C championship game on Nov. 5 at Messalonskee High School in Oakland. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

I’ll remember how central Maine stood above all to sweep the state field hockey championships. I’ll remember Winthrop sending off head coach Sharon Coulton with another state title; I’ll remember Lawrence finally breaking through with its first regional title, then doing one better by claiming the state crown in the following game; I’ll remember Skowhegan silencing the doubters by dethroning a juggernaut Cheverus team in perhaps the magnum opus of Paula Doughty’s legendary coaching career.

Then, I’ll remember watching a Winslow soccer phenom, Andrew Poulin, set the state on fire as he became the second player in Maine boys soccer history to score 50 goals in a single season. (Waynflete’s Myles Culley soon made it three.) It was the second time I can say I’ve covered a boys soccer player who reached that number; as a reporter at The Ellsworth American, I watched in 2018 as Sumner’s Damon Warren set the current record.

Winslow senior Andrew Poulin fires a shot on goal as Waterville defender Theodore Ruehsen closes in during the first half of a boys soccer game Tuesday at Thomas College in Waterville. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Speaking of things coming full circle from my previous job, I’ll remember a warm day in Hampden in which the Maranacook girls soccer team came up just short of a Class C championship repeat against Bucksport. A year ago, I was in Presque Isle on a frigid November morning as the Black Bears beat the Golden Bucks for their first-ever Gold Ball. This year, the emotions following the game were reversed as it was Maranacook who experienced defeat on a 60-degree evening.


There’s nothing, though, that I’ll remember more than the scenes of raw emotion. I’ll remember Gardiner softball’s Corinne Vasvary still shaking and crying tears of joy nearly a half-hour after scoring the run that gave the Tigers their first state championship in 42 years. I’ll remember Hunter McEwen tearing up after dedicating Skowhegan football’s state title to a childhood friend of his who died three years ago.

Gardiner’s Corrine Vasvary, left, gets a hug from Devin Clary, right, after she scored on a passed ball to beat Winslow and win the Class B softball championship game on June 18 in Gorham. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Even now, I can’t tell you what Vasvary’s batting average was or how many tackles McEwen had. In fact, I bet they don’t either — because it’s probably the moments of joy, whether those championship feelings or the little things such as bonding on team bus rides, that are their first memories as well. Those moments can seem brief when they’re happening, but for those living them, they will never fade.

Now, it’s winter again, and the energy in gyms, rinks, pool decks and wrestling rooms is more palpable than ever. After an empty beginning to 2021 and an uncertain (albeit vastly improved) beginning to 2022, 2023 offers the feeling of renewal we haven’t really had yet this decade. It feels, for once, that sports aren’t at risk of going away at a moment’s notice. 

Given what the past three years have looked like, I’ll be cherishing those moments at sporting events more than before — and as I do, 2023 will bring new people, places and scenes that I’ll never forget.

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