THE MT. ARARAT HIGH SCHOOL sports teams will be playing at different venues this fall. Pictured on top, clockwise, field hockey coach Krista Chase explains a drill to her players, Wyley Fitzpatrick dribbles a ball, and Travis Nadeau prepares to pass. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

THE MT. ARARAT HIGH SCHOOL sports teams will be playing at different venues this fall. Pictured on top, clockwise, field hockey coach Krista Chase explains a drill to her players, Wyley Fitzpatrick dribbles a ball, and Travis Nadeau prepares to pass. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

TOPSHAM

With the 2018 high school fall sports season beginning this week, teams from Mt. Ararat are going through many changes as the construction of the new high school is well underway.

The school is slated to be completed for the fall of 2020, with the athletic fields to be ready for play the following fall season.

Gone is the field that housed the football, and boys and girls soccer teams, in the fall. Gone is the baseball field, where the outfield served as the home field for the field hockey team. Gone is the trail that was familiar to all of the runners from the cross-country team.

But no worries, as countless hours and the efforts by administrators, coaches, players and the community has provided the athletes several safe venues to play on this fall.

Geoff Godo, Mt. Ararat’s athletic director, has been planning for these changes since he took over the position in March 2016, a full year before voters approved the referendum to build a new high school.

 

“I started having conversations when I started back in the spring of 2016. I knew there would be challenges, so I wanted to start the conversations,” Godo said. “Everyone I spoke to was very receptive, saying ‘we will work with you if we can.’”

As there were a lot of things to consider while working on the logistics, Godo knew his priorities.

“My main priorities on this from the beginning have been one — the kids. We wanted to make sure we minimize the overall impact on the kids, while maintaining excitement for them. Two, costs. We wanted to limit the travel and those costs, being cognizant of our taxpayers and the budget. Three, maintain our identity. We wanted to make sure we stayed in the district,” said Godo.

He first explored options to keep the teams within the four towns, keeping their identity as the “Mt. Ararat Eagles.” His first step in procuring game and practice fields was to reach out close to home.

“That was my focus when I started the conversations,” Godo said. “Thought it was important to keep the kids as close as you can.”

 

Soccer

The Town of Topsham and its Parks and Recreation Department offered a solution for the soccer programs, offering the Riverside Fields at the Foreside Field Complex. The youth soccer program plans to move to the Foreside soccer fields, allowing all of the high school soccer teams to utilize the field at Riverside.

“Dave Johnson, our groundskeeper, has done a great job outlining the fields and getting them ready,” Godo said.

“It’s huge!” exclaimed girls soccer coach Chad Kirk. “There’s so much room for my teams to practice.”

While the boys practice at Woodside Elementary School during the three-week preseason as they have for several years, they too will be down on Riverside Field once the season starts, and this changes how they are used to practicing.

“This changes a lot of things for us. We used to practice right after school and alternate with the girls varsity between our game field and practice field at the high school,” boys soccer coach Jack Rioux said. “Now one team will practice early and the other will practice starting at 4:30. The good thing is we have two fields down there and the whole program (both jayvee and varsity) can practice at the same time.”

As the fields are off-campus, Godo points out that he is working with the transportation department to identify routes that run to that part of town to help with busing athletes before and after practices.

Some freshman games, and possibly the jayvee contests, will be played either on the practice fields at the school (behind the current high school), as well as around the field schedule at Woodside.

Along with the size of the fields at Riverside, a big change soccer fans will see is the start times of their home games. With no lights at the field, most of the home contests will begin at 3:30 p.m.

“The biggest thing my team and I will miss is the atmosphere of playing a big game under lights,” Rioux said. “Playing games at 3:30 will be a change, but we are going to make the best of it. Most of these kids started playing on this field, so now its coming full circle and they get to play on it again.

“We are going to just be positive with this change and know in the first few weeks we might have some bumps in the road but in the end, in three years, we will have a great new complex to call home.”

Parking will be something that will need attention at the Foreside Fields Complex. While Godo mentions there will be handicapped access down to Riverside Field, other than vital staff, no other vehicles will be allowed down in the limited space at the field.

Football

Another program affected by no lights, will be the football program. For years the community assembled on Friday nights for football under the lights.

This year, the Eagles will play at the Topsham Fairgrounds. The field is operated by the Brunswick Area Youth Football League through a leasing agreement with the fairgrounds and has offered to work the team in for home games.

While the high school team will still practice on its normal field behind the high school, the Eagles will play their home games on Saturday mornings at 11 a.m.

“A while back, the football team used to play there, so it will be kind of nostalgic,” Godo said.

Lights are not the only thing that ’ s different with game- day operations. Athletic trainers on site, ticket takers, and concessions are all impacted.

The football team will host Gray-New Gloucester on Aug. 25 at 10 a.m. at the fairgrounds, and Godo expects to learn a lot from the first day.

“We’re looking to have people at both entrances for admission,” Godo said. “As always, it’ll take a lot of volunteer help to have events run smoothly. Our Boosters Club has worked really hard to continue to create an atmosphere to provide at our games. They have their challenges as well, but our boosters are gogetters and are passionate. They will do what they have to do.”

Field hockey, XC

The field hockey team will adjust to playing their home games at the nearby middle school fields. Coach Krista Chase and her team are excited to stay on campus and share the field with the middle school team.

“ I coach many middle school players year-round, so while logistics may get tricky at times, especially when adjusting schedules due to inclement weather, I consider the middle school players as much “ my girls” as those in my high school program,” notes Chase.

She said it feels good to all be together, and utilizing the same space can also reap rewards.

“I think it facilitates a spirit of camaraderie, enthusiasm for our sport, a sharing of resources and promoting positive connections between middle and high school students who share the same passion for field hockey,” Chase said. “ I have the utmost respect for our incredible fields crew who will work with us to prepare the field for Class A KVAC field hockey action.”

The trail for the cross-country team has been uprooted, but Godo knows his longtime coach, Diane Fournier, is adaptive.

“ Diane is very resourceful, she has a lot of ties in the community and will be fine with her runners,” Godo said.

Godo mentioned the squad is planning on hosting a meet at the Highland Green golf course later this fall.

Challenges and gratefulness

“It’s not a perfect situation for everyone. It ’ s easy to get excited about what ’ s coming, but we can’t forget about what we have,” Godo said. “ Unfortunately nothing is going to be as it was. The biggest challenge I’m finding, and it’s become more real now that it’ s happening, is some of the traditions have changed. We’re used to having a lot of our activities at night. That is something that has become a challenge, That’s a tradition, and it was taken away.”

As he continues to look at other options that the Eagles can do to make the events better, his first priority has always been finding a place for the kids to play and maintain the programming for the athletes.

“ This was vital, so we’re not telling kids, ‘sorry, we don’t have field hockey,’ ‘ for a couple of years because we have no place to go,’” said Godo.

The athletic director also realizes that year one will have its bumps and recognizes that there will be issues and situations that will arise, and expects to roll with the punches.

“ I’m going to try to anticipate things, but stuff will still happen,” Godo said. “ We’ll take a look back at this first year and see what we can do better next year.”

Godo expressed how grateful he, on behalf of the school and athletic department, are for all of the support they have received for the SAD- 75 community.

“We have a lot of good, caring people here in the community,” Godo praised. “People like Dr. Otto and Rick Crawford, B. AY. F. L, Town of Topsham and Bowdoin College ( plans are in the works for some assistance in the spring) have been incredibly supportive.”

As Godo explained, at the end of the day, they are still playing football, still playing soccer, field hockey and cross country.

“ These are the cards we’ve been dealt, let’s make the best hand out of it.”

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