Skowhegan’s Allie Frey and Cony’s Abby Morrill tip off at the first game of the MPA Class B North girls basketball tournament Feb. 17 at the Augusta Civic Center. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Holiday traditions die hard; after all, they’re called “traditions” for a reason.

And few holiday traditions are as entrenched as the year in review, whether by print, video or avant-garde production. Well, that and my mom giving me wool socks every Christmas.

At the Valley News, my former home based on the Vermont-New Hampshire border where Interstates 89 and 91 gather, it was an annual tradition to review the year in local sports from A to Z. I now plant that tree here in central Maine hopes of growing a new tradition.

This is far from an exhaustive list; if you can think of something I left out, drop us a line.

And so, without further ramblings …

A: The Augusta Civic Center celebrated 50 years hosting high school postseason basketball with another week of exciting games (who can forget Messalonskee’s buzzer-beater over defending Class A boys champ Nokokmis?), passionate fans and Gold Balls. The action culminated with Lawrence topping Brunswick for the Class A girls title and Brewer rallying in the final minute to edge Falmouth for the Class A boys crown.


B: There’s a fair chance the number of Mainers rooting for the Duke Blue Devils will be on the rise after Newport native Cooper Flagg announced his intention to play men’s basketball at Duke next season. The 6-foot-9 forward for Monteverde (Fla.) Academy was the subject of recruiting scrutiny rarely experienced by a Maine athlete.

C: Co-ops are the name of the game in high school hockey. What was once a curiosity to help declining participation numbers has become standard. Only 17 of the 47 varsity boys and girls hockey teams in the state go it alone. That said, at least students from schools without a varsity team get a chance to play.

Members of the Hall-Dale softball team celebrate after they beat Bucksport 2-1 in the Class C final in June at the University of Southern Maine in Gorham. The Bulldogs won their 56th straight game and third consecutive Gold Glove. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

D: There was a fair amount of success on the baseball and softball diamonds this spring. Monmouth won the Class C baseball title — the first for a central Maine-based team since 2018 — while Hall-Dale softball earned a three-peat with its third straight Class C crown, extending its winning streak to 56 straight games in the process.

E: If one word can sum up Winthrop field hockey, it’s excellence. Despite losing eight seniors and the retirement of legendary coach Sharon Coulton, the Ramblers defeated Dexter 2-1 to capture their third straight Class C championship. Junior Madeline Wagner scored a program-record 47 goals.

F: This was a year of firsts at Maranacook. In the spring, the Black Bears girls tennis team won the first state title in program history, and in the fall, girls volleyball played its first varsity season, going 7-8 and reaching the Class C playoffs. Oh, and 2023-24 marks the Black Bears’ first season in the Mountain Valley Conference after years in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference.

And let’s not forget the Messalonskee boys lacrosse team, which reached the first state final in program history. 


G: Although the weather doesn’t always cooperate, the golf scene delivered plenty of thrills. Messalonskee’s Jacob Moody and Maine Central Institute’s Owen Moore won league titles; Gardiner’s dynamic duo of Jack Quinn and Austin Gould helped the Tigers into the Class B championships; and Maranacook took the MVC title. Elsewhere, Leavitt’s Jade Haylock won her third straight Class B girls title and was third in the Maine Women’s Amateur, and Topsham’s Caleb Manuel won the Maine Event at the Augusta Country Club.

H: Lawrence had plenty of Hope — as in senior Hope Bouchard, who led the Bulldogs to the Class A girls basketball title and was a Miss Maine Basketball semifinalist. Bouchard, who also led Lawrence to a state field hockey title the previous fall, now plays field hockey at Husson University.

A participant receives extra support near the finish line as spectators cheer and reach out during the Ironman 70.3 Maine in Augusta in July. Officials announced they have reached an agreement to host the event in Augusta for three more years, through 2027. Ashley Allen/Kennebec Journal file

I: For the second straight year, more than 2,200 of the most dedicated athletes around descended upon central Maine in July for the Ironman 70.3 half-triathlon. The race consisted of a 1.2-mile swim in the Kennebec River, a 56-mile bike ride through the towns of the Kennebec River valley and a 13.1-mile run on the Kennebec River Rail Trail, with a finish in downtown Augusta. Trevor Foley took this year’s event with a combined time of 3 hours, 33 minutes, 58 seconds. 

J: The name John Hersom has been a part of football in Maine since his days as a linebacker at Edward Little and UMaine during the Carter administration. The longtime Lawrence coach has guided the Bulldogs to five Eastern/Northern Maine championships and 10 regional title game appearances. This year, Hersom led the Bulldogs to the Class B final, where they lost to Kennebunk.

K: Plenty of soccer teams got their kicks this fall. The Madison boys (Class C) and Monmouth Academy boys (Class D) landed state titles, while the Madison girls and Carrabec boys made history with the first-ever 8-person state crowns.

L: The sports scene was put on hold after the tragic events on Oct. 25 in Lewiston, where 18 people died in the deadliest mass shooting in Maine history. The Maine Principals’ Association paused the high school playoffs for several days while Mainers had a chance to gather their thoughts. Lewiston went on to win the Class A boys soccer title, and the Blue Devils were honored at a New England Patriots game.


Colby College’s Ainsley Burke (12) tries looks to score against the University of Southern Maine in April in Waterville. Morning Sentinel file

M: The Colby Mules delivered in the college ranks. The women’s hockey team won a program-record 18 games and earned its first-ever NCAA Division III tournament win before falling in the quarterfinals; the women’s lacrosse team reached the NCAA D-III quarterfinals; the men’s basketball team went 20-7 and reached the NESCAC final; and the baseball team finished 25-12, while softball went 24-14. Twenty-three Colby athletes were named All-American during the 2023-23 school year.

N: Mt. Blue dominated the Nordic skiing scene last winter, sweeping the boys and girls Class A state and KVAC championships. The Cougars’ Henri McCourt won the Class A title in the classical and was second in the classical pursuit. Mt. Abram’s boys won the MVC crown, and the Roadrunners’ Jeff Warnock won titles in the freestyle, classical and classical pursuit.

O: Bingham’s Cody Laweryson was on the way up in 2023, as the former Valley High and UMaine pitcher was promoted to the St. Paul Saints, the Triple-A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins. 

P: Several swimmers made their mark in the pool, epically Cony sophomore Emily Kennard, who won two titles at the Class A state meet; and teammate Addison Burnham, who won a pair of KVAC A titles. Gardiner/Hall-Dale freshman Addison Pollis won the 100 freestyle at the KVAC Class B championships.

Q: You have to be quick to excel in track and field, and several area athletes fit the bill. Among a plethora of stellar outdoor performances, Cony’s Conor Morin won the triple jump and the New England championships and Skowhegan’s Billy Albertson took home Class A titles in the the long jump and triple jump; MCI’s Emma Burr set state records in the 100 and 300 hurdles; and Gardiner’s Ashlyn Poulin set a state record in the race walk. Albertson and Burr also took home state indoor titles.

Gardiner’s Ashlyn Poulin competes in the 1,600 meter race walk during the Capital City Classic track and field meet in May in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

R: The rulebook was a hot topic, particularly in basketball, where the MPA hoops committee approved the use of video replay to determine if a shot is taken in time at the end of tournament games. The MPA membership, however, has yet to OK the practice. Also, basketball teams in Maine are now allowed to drop down a class if their winning percentage falls below 25% over a four-year period, and the National Federation of State High School Associations announced the elimination of 1-and-1 free throws and the addition of resetting team foul counts after each quarter.


S: Even when the high schools are closed, there is plenty of action thanks to summer tournaments. Mt. Abram again hosted the Western Mountain Classic, which attracted 56 soccer teams; Skowhegan held its annual Victories Over Violence field hockey event; and Gardiner hosted the first Love and Light for Chase tournament, held in memory of 2020 Gardiner Area High School graduate Chase Fossett, who was killed in December 2022 in a car crash in Castine.

T: Six-foot-four Gardiner senior Lizzy Gruber was a tall order for most basketball opponents. Gruber was named Miss Maine Basketball after averaging 20.7 points, 15.7 rebounds and 5.6 blocks per game, and she also cracked the 1,000 career mark in points and rebounds. Gruber is now a freshman on the St. Joseph University women’s team.

U: Mt. Blue alpine skier Taylor Gordon made an unbelievable return to the Cougars after two seasons at Waterville Ski Academy. Gordon, the 2019-20 Central Maine Skier of the Year as a freshman, won the KVAC slalom and giant slalom titles, and capped her season with a Class A state GS crown.

University of Maine women’s basketball coach Amy Vachon talks about her father Paul Vachon and thanks people for coming to the Game On Vachon event June 29 at the Quarry Tap Room in Hallowell. She also read a statement that her father wrote for the event. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

V: There are legendary coaches, and then there is former Cony girls basketball coach Paul Vachon, he of seven state titles and a 433-37 record. In June, as Vachon was recovering from heart and kidney transplants at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, hundreds gathered at Hallowell’s Quarry Tap Room for “Game on for Vachon,” a benefit in the coach’s honor.

W: There was plenty of news on the wrestling mat this year. Cony’s Jonny Lettre won his second straight Class A state title, this time at 285 pounds after winning at 220 the year before. Erskine’s Wynn Pooler, Skowhegan’s Aiden Clark and MCI’s Isaac Kersey also captured state crowns. And while we’re reaching outside our coverage area, no year in review would be complete without mentioning Oceanside’s Maddie Ripley, who made history as the first girl to win a state wrestling title when she captured the Class B championship at 106 pounds. Also, Gardiner native Daniel Del Gallo, a former standout at the University of Southern Maine, was inducted into the Maine Amateur Wrestling Alliance Hall of Fame.

(And as for the wrestling with headlocks and turnbuckles, our own “Belfast Bulldog,” Dave Dyer, earned a couple mentions in Pro Wrestling Illustrated magazine, a publication that was a big deal for many of us mat fans growing up.)

X: Winthrop’s Christopher Pottle was a big star on x-c courses this fall, as the senior ran to the MVC and Class C South titles before finishing up his high school career with a second-place finish at the Class C state meet. Fellow Rambler Haley Williams was sixth at the C South girls meet, and Cony’s Sam Godley won the Class B North title. 

Fran Purnell throws out a ceremonial first pitch to former Major League Baseball pitcher Lee Smith during the dedication of the Purnell Wrigley Field named in his honor in Waterville on April 29, 2017. Morning Sentinel file

Y: The name Fran Purnell was virtually synonymous with youth baseball for decades. Purnell, a Waterville resident whose name adorns the city’s Cal Ripken baseball field — a replica of Wrigley Field, the home of his beloved Chicago Cubs — died in May at 83. Purnell also established the Challenger program, an adaptive league for children with disabilities.

Z: Maine auto racers and tracks delivered the zoom this year. Massachusetts driver Mike Perry captured the DKR 50 at LST Motorsports Park in Richmond; Palmyra’s Max Cookson won the Boss Hogg 150 at Wiscasset Speedway; Farmingdale’s Matt Beers became a 37-year-old rookie at Wiscasset’s Pro Stock division; Unity Raceway ran its second season since reopening after a four-year hiatus; and Cole Butcher won the 50th edition of the Oxford 250; the Nova Scotia resident became the sixth driver to win consecutive titles. 

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