While professional and college sports have come to a halt because of the coronavirus outbreak, Maine’s high school spring sports season is on track to proceed as scheduled.

Maine Principals’ Association officials said Thursday that the season is still scheduled to begin with practices March 23 and games on April 16.

While the MPA did cancel the end of the Unified basketball season and next week’s Drama Festival, Holly Couturier, executive director of the MPA’s professional division, said, “As of now, spring sports are on.”

Couturier and Mike Burnham, the MPA executive director of the interscholastic division, both said the MPA will monitor the COVID-19 situation closely over the upcoming weeks and seek advice from the Maine Department of Education and CDC.

“We’ve got to take some time to see all the information,” said Couturier. “And we don’t have to rush to a decision right now. We’re going to explore our options.”

Burnham said Wednesday that “we are certainly going to closely monitor it and make the best informed decision we can. But at this point it is too early to speculate what will happen.”

The NCAA on Thursday canceled not only the men’s and women’s Division I basketball tournaments, but all other winter championships as well as spring championships.

While high school sports often follow the lead of college sports, Lewiston Athletic Director Jason Fuller said this situation is different. Maine’s high school sports are in hiatus between winter and spring seasons.

“It’s certainly something you notice and it does create a level of political pressure,” he said. “But every community, every situation, is different. They are not the same as we are. They are at a different calendar than we are and under different pressures. That’s something we need to realize.”

Tim Spear, the athletic director at Gorham High, said that all school administrators are trying to gather as much information as they can.

“Everyone is learning about this along with everyone else and we’re certainly working together,” he said. “Our own administration is trying to determine what each individual school wants to do. Then you have to deal with the leagues and the state level.

“But if this is going to happen, this is probably the best time of the year because we have time to put a plan together. There’s certainly been a lot of communication.”

Fuller said Lewiston High will certainly seek guidance from state officials.

“We have to have all the information before we make any definitive decisions,” he said. “I’m not one to rush to decisions. … Right now our plan is to proceed as normal. We’re not making any jumps or leaps until we have more information.”

Couturier said she heard from about 20 schools on Thursday, many asking about field trips and other school-related activities. In the end, she told them, it is a local decision.

Some schools have already made decisions: Thornton Academy and Noble have canceled softball trips – to Florida for the Trojans, to Tennessee for the Knights – scheduled for April vacation. South Portland Athletic Director Todd Livingston said no decision has been made yet on the school baseball team’s trip to Florida during April vacation.

The Penobscot Valley Conference has already set up a contingency schedule for spring sports in case the season is delayed.

“We just wanted to stay ahead of the curve instead of behind it,” said Mount Desert Island Athletic Director Bunky Dow. “You don’t know what’s going to happen, everything seems to change hourly. We wanted something in place in case something happened.”

The winter high school sports season in Maine has already ended, but some middle schools are still competing in winter sports such as wrestling, swimming and track and field.

Middle school sports have already been impacted in reaction to Gov. Janet Mills’ recommendation that non-essential indoor gatherings of 250 or more people be postponed or canceled for the next 30 days.

MSAD 51, which includes Greely high and middle schools, issued a statement after Mills’ address stating that all non-essential events, athletics and after-school activities will be canceled, effective immediately and until further notice.

Neither MSAD 51 Superintendent Jeff Porter nor Greely High Athletic Director David Shapiro responded to telephone messages.

At Kennebunk, the remainder of the middle school seasons in wrestling, swimming and intramural volleyball were suspended indefinitely. Kennebunk Athletic Director Joe Schwartzman said those sports’ seasons would have extended another two weeks.

At Yarmouth, all athletic competitions have been suspended until further notice. Yarmouth Athletic Director David Creech said the middle school indoor track and unified basketball teams will still be allowed to practice at the school. The middle school swim team, which trains in Freeport, will not continue with its season.

“Basically we’ve taken the approach where we’re trying to keep them in-house and not send them to large events,” Creech said.

The Southern Maine Middle Schools Athletic Conference, serving 25 schools in Cumberland and York counties, has not yet canceled the rest of its seasons in indoor track, swimming and wrestling, said league president Sam Cloutier, the assistant athletic director for the South Portland school district.

But the league did cancel this Saturday’s indoor track meet at the Portland Expo.

“For the time being we’re shutting down this weekend and then will re-evaluate from there,” Cloutier said. “I think the whole thing with the Governor’s address turned a lot of heads and made us realize it’s here.”

Steve Connolly, the superintendent of MSAD 60 that includes Noble High, believes the characteristics of spring sports give them a better chance of being played.

‘”I’m looking forward to the opportunity for kids to be able to get outside. There’s not a lot of close proximity on a baseball field,” Connolly said. “Our spring sports, even with fans, aren’t going to hit that 250-person threshold. At this time, today, I’m comfortable to say we should continue with our plans (to have spring sports at the high school level).”


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.