Maranacook players yell while trying to spark a rally during a May 24, 2022 game against Mount View in Thorndike. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

READFIELD — In his five years as Maranacook Community High School athletic director, Brant Remington has constantly been asked why the Black Bears don’t compete against their closest geographical rivals.

Across just about every sport, Maranacook has been competitive in the large-school Kennebec Athletic Valley Conference. Yet with so many schools of similar size within reasonable distance, the Mountain Valley Conference has long seemed a natural fit for the Black Bears.

“I’m always asked, ‘How come we don’t play Hall-Dale? How come we don’t play Monmouth?’” Remington said. “I have to say, ‘well, we’re in the KVAC, they’re in the MVC, and there’s no crossovers there.’”

This will all change in the fall, when Maranacook will depart the KVAC and become the 16th member of the MVC. The move comes after the MVC eased scheduling restraints during the winter sports season, allowing its basketball teams to schedule non-conference games. Furthermore, as another classification year approached, the timing was right, Remington said.

Maranacook’s location in western Kennebec County has been precarious in terms of conference geography. While some KVAC schools are close to Readfield — Cony in Augusta, for example — many result in long bus drives. Trips to KVAC schools such as Maine Central Institute in Pittsfield, Mount View High School in Thorndike, Belfast, and Oceanside in Rockland are about 100 miles round-trip.

By contrast, MVC schools Winthrop, Monmouth, Oak Hill in Wales, Hall-Dale and Spruce Mountain in Jay are considerably closer to Readfield.


“We were (going to those schools) and driving right by Monmouth, Hall-Dale and people like that, and it just doesn’t make any sense,” Remington said. “With the shortage of bus drivers, this will help us because we won’t have as many trips to take, and we also won’t have to leave school as early.”

Until recently, it was impossible for Maranacook to play teams from both conferences because the MVC prohibited teams from playing out-of-conference games.

“You had a new classification cycle, which was good because we were thinking about changing, and as this was going on, the MVC opened up their schedule to do crossovers,” Remington said. “Now, by moving to the MVC, we can now cross back over and still play some of the local KVAC schools. It was great timing for everything.”

Maranacook — whose enrollment is 351 students — reached out to the MVC in late February to inquire about joining the conference. On March 6, athletic directors from the conference’s 15 member schools held an online vote on whether to approve the school’s admission beginning with the 2023-24 school year.

Maranacook assistant softball coach Amy Jones, center, works with players during a March 22, 2022 practice in Readfield. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

The vote in favor of Maranacook joining was unanimous. The school, though larger than most in the MVC (only Oak Hill, Mountain Valley and Spruce Mountain have larger enrollments), was still a nice fit in terms of enrollment. Adding a team that’s a consistent championship contender across multiple sports didn’t hurt, either.

“They’re a very competitive program across the spectrum of gender and sport,” said Hall-Dale Athletic Director Chris Ranslow. “It’s going to add a great balance for the league. There are going to be a lot of sports where Maranacook goes on the schedule, and you look and say, ‘Wow, that’s going to be a really, really hard W.’”


Maranacook also draws students from Fayette, Manchester, Mount Vernon and Wayne. Those towns share a border with three MVC schools — Winthrop, Monmouth and Spruce Mountain. In girls basketball, the Black Bears can also now play a cross-town showdown with Kents Hill.

“For us, I think it’s going to end up becoming one of those natural rivalries,” said Spruce Mountain Athletic Director Marc Keller. “Our schools are pretty close to each other, and a lot of the kids know each other pretty well. It’s a quality program and another local program. We’re happy to have them.”

Maranacook, Ranslow says, does play some of the schools that feed into MVC high schools at the middle school level as part of the Capital Area League. That league includes Hall-Dale, Winthrop, Monmouth, Spruce Mountain, Dirigo, Lisbon (Sugg), Mountain Valley and Telstar.

The MVC’s gain, of course, is the KVAC’s loss. Maranacook was a KVAC mainstay that frequently held its own against many of the conference’s blue bloods. Yet with the MVC’s new crossover scheduling set to expand to fall sports in 2023-24, there will still be chances for KVAC schools to schedule the Black Bears.

“I don’t think them leaving the KVAC is going to prevent us from being able to play each other,” said Cony Athletic Director T.J. Maines. “You look at us in soccer, we’re playing Winthrop next year. We’re KVAC, they’re MVC, but we made it happen. For some sports, it’s going to still make sense to play Maranacook, and for others, it won’t.”

Maranacook girls soccer players celebrate with Addie Watson, center back, after she scored to give her team a 2-1 lead over Old Orchard Beach during a Class C South semifinal game last season at Kents Hill School. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

In soccer, where Maranacook features one of the region’s best girls programs as well as a competitive boys program, crossover games will be a necessity. With many MVC schools opting for the new 8-on-8 format this coming fall, the Black Bears will have to look elsewhere to fill out a good chunk of the schedule.

The schedules should also provide opportunities for Maranacook in basketball, baseball and softball. In basketball, for example, playing MVC schools and keeping a few KVAC teams means the Black Bears won’t need to travel to Medomak Valley, Old Orchard Beach and Oceanside as they did this winter.

Maranacook is the fourth team to join the MVC in recent years. Oak Hill joined in 2012, Spruce Mountain rejoined in 2017 after leaving in 2014 and Buckfield joined in 2020. In addition to the aforementioned schools, the conference also includes Carrabec, Madison, Boothbay and Wiscasset.

“There are traditionalists still at different levels, and I think it’s important to respect some of those elder statesmen because their voices are impactful,” Ranslow said. “I just think you have to do what’s best for the league, whether that’s crossovers or a new school. … I think it’s going to be a great fit.”

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