Thomas College’s Mackenzie Burrows looks for a shot during a game last year in Waterville. Burrows, a Brunswick High School graduate, is one of several Maine college athletes waiting on the fate of their winter sports season. Contributed photo/Thomas College athletics

Lauren Chadwick is keeping hopes of a winter sports season alive.

Chadwick, a Gardiner Area High School graduate, is a senior captain on the women’s basketball team at Western New England University in Springfield, Massachusetts. A starting guard, Chadwick received positive news on Nov. 11, when the Commonwealth Coast Conference — of which the Golden Bears are a member — announced it was delaying a decision on whether conference games will be canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“I’m extremely happy that we still have very high hopes of having a season, versus other schools, more like Tufts in Boston (not having a season),” Chadwick said. “I feel their pain. I know that we had to get sent home from the pandemic in the spring, and we couldn’t do our postseason. It was definitely something that we had never experienced before. My heart aches for all the other teams that don’t have a season. I can’t imagine, senior year, you get one more year of basketball before going out into the adult world. That’s something that hurts the heart. But I’m very happy that I get this opportunity of maybe having a season in the future, which is what we’ve been working on for the past two months.”

Chadwick is one of several Maine athletes awaiting to hear a final decision — either from schools or from conferences — on the fate of the winter sports season. Some conferences, such as the Division I Ivy League, have already canceled conference competition before the season was set to begin. Others, such as the CCC — a Division III conference that includes the University of New England in Biddeford — are still holding out hope before making a final decision.

And they’re not alone. Locally, the Division III North Atlantic Conference — which includes Thomas College in Waterville, the University of Maine at Farmington, Husson University in Bangor, Maine Maritime Academy in Castine and the University of Maine at Presque Isle — has also decided to wait on a final decision on the winter season until January.

Chadwick praised Western New England for doing its part to help try and have a winter sports season.

“The college experience is going great, considering the situation,” Chadwick said. “We’re all in class (in-person), perfectly normal. We just have to wear masks when we’re on campus. The dining hall is still open. But when we’re going home for Thanksgiving, we’re not coming back, (classes are) going to be online. But all facilities will be open, so we can come back (for basketball), we just have to be tested. We can go use the gym, we can go use the library, if we need to use computers… I think it’s a smart decision on their part to have the campus open, so we can all succeed in our classes.”

Collegiate student-athletes across the state have expressed varying emotions regarding their upcoming winter season.

Brunswick High School graduate Mackenzie Burrows, a junior forward for the Thomas women’s basketball team, considered her options for the season. 

“I often second guessed playing this season, but how could I when I grew up at the Recreation Center in Brunswick. Basketball players were born there, and that has made a huge impact on me and is a big reason why I am choosing to stick it out through this heavily controlled season and school year,” Burrows said. “I have hope that there will be light at the end of the tunnel, and that all this strength and conditioning will hopefully pay off toward the end of January.”

Thomas College basketball player Nikki Bradstreet dribbles during a game last year. Bradstreet, a Mt. Ararat graduate, is one of several Maine college athletes waiting on the fate of their winter sports season. Contributed photo/Thomas College athletics

Mt. Ararat graduate Nikki Bradstreet plays with Burrows at Thomas. The senior guard is doing everything possible to maintain positivity in hopes of some competition this season.

“You have to find a new level of motivation to keep preparing with no guarantee that you will get to the point in the season where you can put it all together,” Bradstreet said. “As a senior, I want more than anything to have my last season.”

The team has been approaching the season in phases.

Phase one is practicing in “pods,” with about half the team practicing at once. The second phase is practicing together as a team without one-on-one drills, followed by the final phase of being able to hold a practice in a scrimmage-like setting to incorporate the game plan for competition.

At Husson, teams are eagerly awaiting the next move from the NAC.

Christian Brookhouse, a junior sprinter and jumper who graduated from Morse High School in Bath in 2018, is ready for competition should the green light come.

“Our coaching staff at Husson really helped us through it and really motivated us to train hard for the indoor season,” Brookhouse said. “Whether it’s indoor, outdoor, or even next year, we will keep training and Husson will be ready to compete.”

Last spring season, Brookhouse was fortunate enough to compete in a meet before the pandemic came. She set a personal record in the long jump and triple jump.

“I had a lot of momentum and confidence after that, so it was definitely a bummer when the season was canceled,” Brookhouse said. “The entire team and coaching staff is taking all the steps necessary to help us have a season this winter.”

Messalonskee High School graduate Emily Parent was looking forward to her sophomore season as a member of the Colby-Sawyer women’s basketball team. But earlier this month, the Great Northeast Athletic Conference, which Colby-Sawyer is a member, of canceled winter sports conference competition. The Chargers will continue to practice during the winter. Contributed photo/Mike Gridley/Colby-Sawyer athletics

Messalonskee High School graduate Emily Parent, a sophomore on the Colby-Sawyer women’s basketball team in New London, New Hampshire, will not have a traditional winter season after the Great Northeast Athletic Conference announced it had canceled conference competition.

“Our fall sports season got canceled, so we were almost expecting the GNAC to follow suit (with winter),” Parent said. “We talked really closely to (athletic director Mitch Capelle), and all he knew was that the GNAC kept pushing back the dates later and later for games. One day, we just got the message that we’re not going to be able to play games. I think we expected that because of the rise in (COVID) cases. As soon as that happened, a ton of things just kind of fell in place.”

Parent said the Chargers — who had been practicing before the final decision on the season — will continue to practice, and potentially scrimmage, through the rest of the winter.

“We’re not having a winter camp, where we come back early, or anything like that,” Parent said. “We’re coming back at the same time as everyone else. We’ll have to phase in (during practices) again, beginning at Phase 1. But we will continue to keep practicing all the way through, and we’re hoping to have the possibility of scrimmaging some teams from New Hampshire. Plymouth State is close, Keene State.”

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