It was the year of the comeback.

Sports made a complete return in Maine in 2022, in full throat and full participation after nearly two years of being stifled by the onset of the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent health precautions.

From basketball arenas to Fort Williams, enthusiastic crowds returned to celebrate long-time staples of the sports calendar. And new stars emerged, generating excitement along the way. Here is a look at some of the most notable sports stories in Maine from the past 12 months:

Nokomis’ Cooper Flagg dunks with authority against Brewer during the Class A North boys’ basketball final on Feb. 25 at the Augusta Civic Center. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel


The pandemic resulted in the cancellation of the 2021 high school basketball state tournaments – the signature event on the scholastic sports calendar. For the first time since the tournament’s inception in 1922, there were no official postseason games.

In the winter of 2022, that changed. The games returned, the crowds returned, and championship excitement was back at the Portland Expo, Cross Insurance Arena in Portland, the Augusta Civic Center, and Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.


With the tournament’s return came headline-grabbing storylines. J.P. Estrella, a coveted college basketball recruit, led the South Portland boys to their first state title in 30 years. Miss Maine Basketball winner Jaycie Christopher brought Skowhegan its first title in Class A. Dirigo beat Dexter for the Class C boys’ title on Charlie Houghton’s 3-pointer at the buzzer.

The loudest buzz, however, was generated in the Class A boys’ bracket as Nokomis, led by twin brothers Cooper and Ace Flagg, took a dominant regular season into the playoffs. With fans coming to Augusta in droves to watch Cooper Flagg, one of the top-ranked high schoolers in the country, the Warriors took care of Messalonskee and Cony in the first two rounds. An estimated 4,400 fans filled the stands to watch Nokomis beat Brewer in the North final, with Flagg collecting 27 and 12 rebounds. The next week, the crowds traveled to Portland to watch the Warriors beat Falmouth for the state title.

“I think the whole state was excited about having high school basketball back,” said Nokomis Coach Earl Anderson. “That wasn’t a real season last year and … I think these guys added an extra dimension of excitement.”

– Drew Bonifant

Camden’s Cole Anderson tied for third in the Korn Ferry Tour’s Live and Work in Maine Open at Falmouth Country Club in June. An amateur, he fared better than 149 professional golfers in the tournament. Anderson plays collegiately at Florida State. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer


The Live and Work in Maine Open went out in style this summer.


The Korn Ferry Tour made its second visit to Falmouth Country Club in June, and in addition to a field of up-and-coming professionals featured the state’s two most prominent amateur players. Topsham’s Caleb Manuel played one week after competing in the U.S. Open, while Camden’s Cole Anderson, a two-time Maine Amateur champion, also played following his sophomore season at Florida State.

And then the unexpected happened. Anderson jumped into contention and stayed there, finishing the first round three shots back after a 4-under 67. The second round saw another 67 that had him tied for third. And the third round, a brilliant bogey-free 64, put him in a tie for the lead and in position for an improbable victory.

The gallery around him swelled, roaring its approval at Anderson’s charge. It returned for the fourth round, when Anderson’s 1-over 72 settled him into a tie for third.

He had already, however, made a statement.

“I had an absolute blast,” Anderson said after the final round. “That was special, just to be a part of that.”

It ended up being a grand finale. In September, it was learned that the Korn Ferry Tour was dropping the event in Maine after just two years.


“I think it was a great event for not only us as players, but just for the community and Maine as a whole,” Anderson said. “(It’s) obviously a big disappointment to see it not coming back.”

– Drew Bonifant

Standish native Emily Durgin leads a pack of elite female runners during the TD Beach to Beacon 10K road race in Cape Elizabeth. Durgin finished second to Fentaye Belayneh of Ethiopia. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer


It took longer to sell out and the international field was depleted by visa issues and the high cost of travel, but on race day it was clear: the TD Beach to Beacon 10K road race was back, with 5,341 people finishing their 6.2-mile run at historic Fort Williams in Cape Elizabeth.

“It’s great to be back!” Joan Benoit Samuelson said of the race, held as an in-person event for the first time in three years.

Founded in 1998 by Samuelson, the 1984 Olympic marathon gold medalist, “Joanie’s Race” is a staple of Maine’s summer athletic scene and one of the country’s premier road races. Each year on the first Saturday in August, well over 6,000 runners from around the globe, including deep fields of elite men’s and women’s runners, gather in Cape Elizabeth to test their fitness and celebrate. Then came the pandemic. In 2020, Maine’s COVID-compliance rules made holding the race impossible. In 2021, Beach to Beacon was a virtual-only event, a decision made by the organizers.


The 2022 return rolled out slowly. In the years leading up to the pandemic, the race would sell out through online registrations in a matter of minutes. This time, with runners needing to prove they had received the COVID vaccination and the entry fee rising from $55 to $65 to help cover increased costs, a few race bibs were still available the week of the race.

Kenyan Mathew Kimeli won the men’s race, and Fentaye Belayneh of Ethiopia, in her first American road race, pulled away from Standish native Emily Durgin over the final stretch to win the women’s race. Kimeli and Belayneh were among five foreign runners in the top 50 finishers, compared to 13 internationals in the top 50 in 2019. Temperatures in the upper 70s with high humidity led to some of the slowest winning times in race history.

– Steve Craig

Thornton Academy’s Caden True moves in to tackle Dom Tagliaferro of Bedford High in New Hampshire during a Sept. 17 game in Saco. Interstate football between the states made its debut in 2022. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer


It took a lot longer to create the 2022 high school football schedule, but in the end the novel adjustments helped to create better competitive balance in 11-man football.

It started with coaches ranking the teams in their own divisions. That set the stage for schedules based on strength of program, with a heavy dose of interclass games. In a ground-breaking move, Class A teams were allowed to schedule out-of-state opponents for one countable game.


New Hampshire won three of the five interstate games, including Bedford beating defending Class A champion Thornton Academy.

More significant were the 57 interclass games. Teams from smaller enrollment classes won 29 times. The larger-class team won 28. The 22.6-point average margin of victory in interclass games was less than in the other 153 11-man games (25.24), the 96 eight-man games (26.8), and lower than any full-season average since 2012.

Teams that needed relief from having to play perennial powers got it. In Class A, Lewiston beat two Class B teams instead of playing Thornton and Bonny Eagle and went 5-3 after three consecutive two-win seasons. Edward Little avoided Thornton and Oxford Hills, broke a 20-game losing streak, won two games and showed competitive fight in several others.

Some traditional rivalries inexplicably were not scheduled, but new and intriguing matchups were created. Class C Cape Elizabeth and Wells beat their Class B neighbors – South Portland and Kennebunk, respectively. Cape had never played South Portland. Wells hadn’t played Kennebunk in 20 years.

The schedule wasn’t perfect, of course, especially if a team that coaches predicted would be strong, such as Marshwood, had a rare down season. But with another reclassification overhaul for 11-man football on the horizon, flexible scheduling rooted in program strength – not enrollment – showed it has value.

– Steve Craig


Izzy Wilson, right, celebrates with Ceddanne Rafaela after Rafaela’s catch to end the top of the seventh inning on June 7 at Hadlock Field. Both players were instrumental to the success of the Portland Sea Dogs late in the season. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer


Like the Beach to Beacon 10K, Portland’s minor league baseball team, the Sea Dogs, and their home, Hadlock Field, are deeply woven into the state’s sporting consciousness. The 2022 season was one of the franchise’s best. After no season in 2020 and attendance restrictions to begin 2021, fans came out in force this past summer, with an average attendance of 5,744 – a 37 percent increase from 2021 and franchise-best since 2010.

Sparked by young talent like Ceddanne Rafaela, the Boston Red Sox affiliate responded on the field, too, going 45-24 in the second half of the season to earn its first playoff appearance since 2014. Fans also packed Hadlock Field to see Red Sox stars such as Chris Sale, Kiké Hernández and Trevor Story play with the Sea Dogs while on injury rehab assignments.

Then came a stunning announcement in December. The Burke family, the owners of the franchise since its inception in the 1990s, said they would sell the Sea Dogs to Diamond Baseball Holdings. A subsidiary of a technology venture firm called Silver Lake, Diamond Baseball has purchased more than a dozen minor league franchises in just over a year and aims to have 20 clubs by Opening Day 2023.

Naturally, a landmark family-owned institution being sold to outsiders on a buying spree raised concerns. Diamond Baseball CEO Peter Freund said of the successful franchise, “You don’t try to fix what’s not broken,” and the new owners announced they would retain all 19 of the Sea Dogs’ full-time employees. Ticket prices will remain the same in 2023, and Freund pledged to keep those prices reasonable in the future.

The Sea Dogs have an agreement to remain Boston’s Double-A affiliate through the 2030 season, allowing fans in Portland to continue to see future Boston stars at least through the end of the decade. Whether the Red Sox ultimately will be unable or unwilling to keep those homegrown stars on their roster – ala Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts – remains to be seen.


– Steve Craig

Falmouth’s Zach Morrill watches a loose ball with Marshwood’s Aidan Sullivan, left, and Chris Reuning during a playoff game at the Portland Expo on Feb. 26. Jill Brady/Staff Photographer


At the start of 2022, the pandemic still had a grip on high school sports. Game cancellations because of COVID cases mounted, schools went into the new year pondering how to approach the subject of vaccination status, and winter athletes still had to play their sports in masks, in front of masked fans and officials.

It was a subject of frustration and exasperation, particularly as the players’ habit of wearing masks under their noses or even their chins prompted questions about how to enforce such a rule.

“To say that masks are being worn 100 percent correctly would be a gross exaggeration,” Thornton Academy Athletic Director Gary Stevens said in January. “If you want to be the mask police, you’ll be at it all night.”

Signs of the pandemic were gone by the spring, however, and months later, Maine athletes got their first fall season completely back to normal since 2019, before the pandemic began. The last COVID precautions fell; contact tracing went away, and volleyball players, the fall’s lone indoor athletes, played mask-free for the first time in three years.

The result was a fall season in which athletes could think about their sport, and only their sport, for the first time in years. The trend has only continued, as winter athletes are playing without masks or any COVID-related restrictions once again.

“I’ve really only known high school to be full of restrictions and mask mandates,” said Elise MacNair, a senior captain on the Old Orchard Beach girls’ soccer team. “Everyone enjoyed themselves. We could play more freely. It wasn’t worrying about constantly testing for COVID.”

– Drew Bonifant

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