Wednesday, April 23, 2014
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In this April 2012 file photo, Deering High's Nicole Mason slides safely into third base as Westbrook third baseman Mikaela Carey takes the throw. The U.S. Department of Education said Thursday, Sept. 27, 2013 it has reached an agreement with Portland's public schools to ensure that female students in the district will have athletic opportunities that are equal to those of boys.
John Ewing / Staff Photographer
Kelly Libby, now entering his third year as the Portland High softball coach, said the field at Payson Park will never be on a par with Hadlock, but significant upgrades are in the works.
"It's been obvious that the girls field wasn't up to even what I thought was a safety standard, let alone equal facilities," he said. "You've got two girls teams and all the parents and fans and there's one (portable toilet). If a lightning storm came up, there would be no place to go, no shelter."
Construction of storage space, enclosed dugouts, concession and bathroom facilities along with new lighting, bleachers and a scoreboard are planned for Payson, where both Portland and Deering will play their softball games and Portland will practice.
"You'll see some of those implemented by spring," Craig said. "It is a process."
Libby, whose softball team doubled its victory total from his first season (one) to his second and saw participation rise from 20 to 22 girls, welcomes the upgrades. "We're excited about that," he said. "It's been a long time coming."
As one who benefited from the changes required by Title IX, Craig reflected on her high school playing days in Rhode Island, her softball career at Saint Joseph's College in Standish and her current stature as one of six female athletic administrators in Maine high schools.
"It is kind of neat," she said. "Girls are playing harder, faster and stronger and it's because of the opportunities we've created to ensure the playing field is equal."
Gone, too, is her initial fear of the OCR audit resulting in reduced opportunities for boys.
"This wasn't about taking away from athletes," Craig said. "What it's done is elevated all of our programs."
Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at: