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MHS Winter Sports Preview 20/21

Uncertainty is the operative word as high schools, at least in Kennebec County, open their winter sports season next week despite continued concerns about the ongoing pandemic.

“Challenging is  probably the best way to describe it,” Messalonskee athletic director Chad Foye said of the sports season ahead. “There’s less security. It’s hard to predict what will happen.”

In the past, Foye said winter weather was the factor that caused him the most headaches, forcing him to postpone and reschedule games. Now, in addition to nor’easters and ice storms, he has to account for coronavirus surges and schools that need to go fully remote for periods of time.

Still, the hope and expectation is most Messalonskee teams will get to compete this winter albeit on a more limited regional basis against a smaller number of opponents than in the past. 

In previous winters, basketball teams would have already been about a month into their season. But this January, the schedules have yet to be printed and made available to the public – yet another sign of the uncertainty.

That is not the only change. For this season, at least based on current state policy in regard to coronavirus safety, basketball, hockey, and swim competitions will take place without spectators.

The trouble, Foye said, is social distancing restrictions simply make it impossible to have fans attend. The policy, for example, limits the Messalonskee gymnasium to no more than 50 people. 

Foye said that limit is reached when two teams enter the gym – once players, coaches, and referees are considered. The result, he said, is a loss for the entire student body.

“That’s one of things missing here –  having kids going to [sporting events] to support their friends,” Foye said.

Games, too, will have a different look. Basketball and hockey players will have to wear masks when they play, while swimmers, although they won’t have to wear masks, will compete solely against the clock, not opponents. Instead, swim meets will all be virtual, with times between the competing teams compared to determine who prevailed.

Foye acknowledges it’s not an ideal situation, but he said most students are happy just for the opportunity to play their sport. That opportunity is not available to all athletes, however. 

Messalonskee’s indoor track teams, for instance, will not have a season because the numbers involved in a typical meet would far exceed coronavirus restrictions. Nevertheless, Foye said indoor track athletes continue to practice in order to stay in shape and develop their skills.

As for what is ahead for high school athletics, Foye said the hope is the rollout of the coronavirus vaccine and the return of warmer weather after winter will allow teams to compete in traditional fashion, fans included.

“I know the goal is to make as normal a spring season as we can,” he said. The question is how normal. Nobody knows the answer. Uncertainty, again, reigns supreme.

 

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