Hurdlers compete during the 2019 Class A indoor track state meet at the University of Southern Maine. This winter, both the Class A and Class B meets are scheduled for USM. Jill Brady/Staff Photographer

The Class B high school state championship indoor track meet will be held at the University of Southern Maine on the same day as the Class A state meet.

The Maine Principals’ Association’s Track Committee made that decision on Monday, choosing to move the Class B championship meet to USM instead of the University of Maine in Orono. Traditionally, the Class B meet is held at Bates College in Lewiston, but that school has closed its athletic facilities to outside groups because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The meets will be held on Monday, Feb. 21, with the Class A meet starting at 10 a.m. and the Class B meet at 4:30 p.m. Both girls and boys will compete. Spectators will be allowed, although it was not determined on Monday how many.

“We’re working to get people in to see the kids compete and for the kids to have an audience,” said Don King, the Poland Regional High athletic director and chair of the track committee. “We’re just trying to make the best decisions we can for everybody for the time we’re in. It doesn’t seem that there are many decisions that are easy these days.”

USM requires proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test within 72 hours of the meet for anyone entering the field house. Everyone, including competing athletes, will be required to wear a mask.

The meeting Monday lasted nearly three hours as committee members discussed a variety of topics, several of which were tabled for another meeting in early February.

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But it was imperative on Monday that the MPA decide where the Class B meet would be held. UMaine’s field house in Orono, site of the Eastern Maine Indoor Track League meets, was in consideration. “I thought it was a done deal.” said King.

But about two weeks ago, some northern Maine athletic directors and coaches pointed out the shortcomings of the track at the UMaine field house, given its unique design.

The track is short (only 191 meters) and has only four running lanes (two fewer than at USM). In addition, there is an embankment, or incline, to the track, which limits how many lanes can be used for sprints. Because the track is shorter, the markings for start and finish lines are different, as are the relay zones. And that, said Leavitt athletic director and track committee member Ryan LaRoche, “can be very confusing for kids who don’t know what’s going on.”

After much discussion, the committee voted 4-0 to move the championship meet to USM. Chris Libby, the track coach at Orono High, said the move will require teams from that area of the state to make adjustments, starting with the fact that the USM track is flat.

“Are we saving problems by moving?” he asked. “Because it feels like we have a couple of imperfect plans.”

King is aware that not everyone will agree with the move.

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“I feel bad because I know UMaine is our Division I school in the state and would love to get our kids up there, and I appreciate their willingness to work with us,” he said. “But we want to make sure we provide the kids with the best opportunity to be successful and not put a kid at a disadvantage.”

NYA indoor track coach Chris Mazzurco said the move creates “an equal playing field.”

“It’s the best decision,” he said. “I know there will be challenges across the board, most of which we would have had regardless of where we went.

“It’s a hard place to be. That being said, I’m glad we’re even having these conversations.”

Indoor track competitions were not held last winter because of the pandemic.

Now the track committee has to determine how many spectators will be allowed, whether teams can bring all their athletes or just the ones who qualified for the state meet, where those team members will stay and how tickets will be distributed. MPA Executive Director Mike Burnham will meet with USM officials to find those answers.

“This is still an unusual time in our lives,” said King. “We’re still dealing with a pandemic and trying to normalize this to the best of our abilities.”


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