The Messalonskee girls lacrosse team does dynamic warm ups to start practice April 3 in Oakland. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

SOUTH CHINA — The blue in the sky (well, except for a brief span of once-in-a-generation midday darkness) and the near-60-degree air were a good start to the week that marks the first of countable high school spring games.

Unfortunately, the fields on which those games are set to be played aren’t in such excellent condition — and with more rain on the way, those without turf fields might not be ready in time for the first competitions.

“It seems like we’re not getting the break we need in terms of the weather,” said Erskine Academy Athletic Director Chuck Karter. “This morning, we still had 5 1/2 inches of snow on our fields, and even though it’s a really nice day today, we have rain coming later in the week.”

The Erskine and Lawrence/Winslow girls lacrosse teams are among those scheduled to host their first regular-season games this week. Those games, Karter and Lawrence Athletic Director David Packard said, will now be on hold unless the Eagles and Bulldogs can find turf fields.

Those fields are limited in number as Cony, Gardiner and Messalonskee are the only central Maine schools with turf fields suitable for lacrosse (Winthrop Athletic Director Joel Stoneton said the school’s new turf field is not lined for the sport). Baseball games can be held at Colby College or Kents Hill, though Skowhegan is already using the former with its home field unavailable.

Although Gardiner Athletic Director Nate Stubbert said his school has yet to receive any requests from other schools to host lacrosse games, Messalonskee’s Chad Foye has gotten multiple calls. Between his own school’s games and practices, though, the turf isn’t always available to other teams.


“If you have something available because if you have a place you can help people out with, you do it, but you have to prioritize your own teams and your own practices first,” Foye said. “It’s difficult, but you do try to help out when you can because you really want to give the kids a chance to play.”

Although baseball and softball begin next week, the coming rain over the next few days might also push back start dates. Foye said Messalonskee, which has a field positioned below a hill that struggles to drain, won’t know if the Eagles can host next Wednesday’s games against Cony until later in the week.

Gardiner’s Stubbert is even less confident. Although his school’s baseball and softball teams have been able to practice on the turf on days when it’s not snow-covered, they’re still reliant on their grass fields for next Wednesday’s first regular-season home games against Leavitt.

Skowhegan’s Silas Tibbetts hits in the cage during batting practice March 27 in Skowhegan. Anna Chadwick/Morning Sentinel

“I was just down on our baseball field (earlier today), and it was a swamp,” Stubbert said. “We don’t have the best drainage on our fields, and with this coming rain Wednesday-Thursday-Friday this week and the snow that we got, I’m not very confident we’re going to get those first games in on time.”

Rescheduling a couple of baseball or softball games, though a challenge, is doable for a pair of sports that are no strangers to being played daily. For track and field, though? Well, those meets are usually held once per week with only the occasional midweek meet, making rescheduling a headache or, even worse, unfeasible.

“We have a track meet (next Friday), and that’s the one that concerns me the most,” said Packard, whose school is one of several in the area scheduled to host meets next week (Maranacook, Mount View, Skowhegan, Winslow among others). “If you lose a track meet, it’s hard to make it up.”

With April’s weather, of course, many teams haven’t even gotten a chance to get on their respective fields just yet. Baseball, softball and tennis practices have frequently been in gyms, lacrosse practices in parking lots and track and field practices in hallways and weight rooms in the early days of spring.

By the time the first  games come, many teams won’t have had much time on their normal fields, and preseason games will have largely been out of the question. That’s nothing new for athletic directors, coaches and players in Maine, though, and no team is spared from the disadvantage.

“Whenever we do play (those first lacrosse games), I’m sure those other teams have been practicing, like we have, in the parking lot or on the tennis courts these first few weeks,” Packard said. “Everyone’s in that same boat, so they should be pretty even matchups.”

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