The Mt. Blue High School field hockey team celebrates after it sank Cony 2-1 in a Class A North semifinal game on Oct. 26, 2019 in Farmington. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

FARMINGTON — Mt. Blue High School girls soccer coach Fred Conlogue has worked with his team for weeks, hoping the Maine Principals’ Association would allow for a season during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We had nine weeks of practice. We had a practice on Monday,” Conlogue said.

On Wednesday, all fall sports at Mt. Blue came to an abrupt end.

The Regional School Unit 9 board of directors voted Tuesday night to halt interscholastic fall sports, adding Mt. Blue to a small but growing list of schools to opt out. North Haven, Vinalhaven and Sumner (Sullivan) high schools recently announced they would not hold fall sports. Camden Hills previously said it would, too, but then reversed course this week when it decided to offer cross country and golf. Spruce Mountain High School in Jay will also only offer cross country and golf this fall.

“When they gave the risk assessments for each sport, golf and cross country are listed as low, or lower risk,” Camden Hills athletic director Jeff Hart said. “We had put some thought into it. We almost kept (golf and cross country) in, initially, but when (the MPA) came back with some of the modifications they made, we felt comfortable that, with those two sports, we could keep things consistent with what we’re doing every day in the school, within school, and still compete.”

The MPA last week green-lighted abbreviated seasons in soccer, field hockey, cross country and golf after it reached an agreement with state officials on all COVID-19 safety measures. However, tackle football and indoor volleyball — which were designated as a high-risk activities in state and national guidelines — were postponed to late winter/early spring.

Prior to the RSU 9 vote Tuesday night, Superintendent Tina Meserve said she was concerned with how the MPA’s fall sports guidelines did not line up with those the district set up for a return to school. The school district guidelines required students maintain a 3-foot distance from each other and a 6-foot distance from adults. Face coverings and transportation also were identified as concerns in holding fall sports.

With Mt. Blue students in school on a hybrid model, Meserve and board members expressed concern that athletes in different cohort groups would be playing and traveling together, which could increase potential exposure to COVID-19.

Mt. Blue student-athletes said they were blindsided by the decision.

“I’ve cried more in 18 hours than I have my entire life. It’s going to be hard for a while,” said Emma White, a senior on the girls soccer team. “It wasn’t a great day. No, not at all… It was a bit of a whack in the back.”

“Everybody is a bit gloomy and sad,” added Adam Loewen, a senior on the boys soccer team. “I don’t know if we got false hope from the MPA or not.”

Mt. Blue’s Adam Loewen tries to maintain possession of the ball as Leavitt defender Zack Morrison closes in during a game last season in Turner. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Whitney Frasier is a senior on the Mt. Blue field hockey team. The Cougars reached the Class A North championship game last season, and even with the MPA not sponsoring playoffs this season, the team expected to have a strong season. On Wednesday afternoon, Frasier expressed the frustration she and her teammates are feeling.

“It’s definitely a decision I never thought I’d hear,” Frasier said. “We’re a strong team, and we have each other to lean on during these unexpected times.”

Longtime cross country coach Kelley Cullenberg said as of Wednesday afternoon, she had yet to meet with her team. Like other sports, the cross country team has held workouts for weeks.

“We try to stay as positive as possible because things are really out of our control. You can take the positive side of things or dwell on the negative. We were able to practice. For summer practices, they were very well-attended,” Cullenberg said. “It was awesome to watch them reestablish their relationships and become a family again. In some aspects, it was better than our regular summer training.”

Gregg Loewen, Adam’s father, said he’s worked as an RN at Franklin Memorial Hospital since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March.

“It’s (COVID-19) almost non-existent in this county,” he said. “Since the governing body for high school sports had OK’d things and put guidelines in place, I thought they were all clear.”

White and Adam Loewen said they’ll play soccer for their club team, the Central Maine United in Waterville. Loewen added he and a few teammates may explore playing for another school’s team as a co-op and attend classes remotely at Mt. Blue.

Mt. Blue junior midfielder Emma White (14) winces on a header as Cony’s Dinah Wadleigh (17) and Andrea Richardson (14) look on during a 2019 game at Caldwell Field in Farmington. Tony Blasi/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

“I can play for Central Maine United, I know I’ll have that, but not all kids have that,” White said. “I would ask (the board of directors), what was the deciding factor? What made them decide for Mt. Blue students it wasn’t safe for us to play?”

Added Conlogue: “It’s been kind of an emotional roller coaster. Some days the kids are pumped up because there was some good news, and then Camden announced it was not having sports and they were down again. We’ve tried to have them have a little bit of hope.”

With intramural programs on the table as a possibility, Mt. Blue fall coaches will work with athletic director Chad Brackett to plan their next move.

“We now have another hurdle,” Cullenberg said. “Other teams will compete, and we’ll be cheering them on. It’s a hard thing to grasp.”

 

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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