Powerful storm brings high school sports to a standstill in central Maine

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The Gardiner Area High School gymnasium was empty Tuesday afternoon, as the storm wiped out high school sports across central Maine, Anna Chadwick/Morning Sentinel

The powerful storm that pummeled central Maine with heavy rain and hurricane-force winds on Monday night into Tuesday brought much of the region to a standstill. 

With widespread power outages and several roads washed away, the storm also put high school sports in a holding pattern Tuesday — and possibly longer in some communities.

“Our communities are a little isolated right now,” said Carrabec Athletic Director Erik Carey. “Anson and North Anson, you can’t even get between the two. We’ve had some roads that have been washed out, so when can some people even get access to (the school)? We have the same policy as many schools, which is, if we don’t have school, we don’t have games. Our first thing needs to be getting the school back open.”

The storm’s flood waters came within 2 feet of breaching the banks of the Sandy River in Farmington. A parking lot that is home to a local movie theater and Norton’s optometry business flooded.

It was reminiscent, Mt. Blue boys basketball coach Troy Norton said, of what happened in Farmington on April Fool’s Day 36 years ago.

“It’s higher than pretty much everybody can remember since 1987, basically,” said Norton. “(Monday) night, Farmington was pretty much cut off north and south. The water has receded, but there’s still a ton of damage that we’re dealing with.”

From Farmington to further east to the southern stretches of the region, the damage varies as the state recovers from the deluge. 

Skowhegan Area High School, which was supposed to travel to Lawrence High in Fairfield to play a boys and girls basketball doubleheader Tuesday night, canceled all games and practices.

“The whole upper half of Madison Avenue, you can’t cross the bridge to get over to the high school,” Skowhegan Athletic Director Brian Jones said. “I’ve had conversations via text with my coaches (Tuesday), letting them know everything is canceled. The school doesn’t have power.  The roads are impassable. A lot of people are without power, really, almost all of Skowhegan is without power. Most people can’t even get to the high school because they’ve closed the bridges downtown. From that perspective, that was an easy call.”

While weather and postponements play a role during the winter sports season, Jones was concerned the storm could result in multiple days of postponements.

The town center of Hallowell was unreachable Tuesday afternoon, with both sides of Route 201 closed. Emily Duggan/Kennebec Journal

“It’s tough because if you lose two or three games in a week, then try to reschedule that but also work around the other variables and all the other schedules of the schools we’re playing, it makes it tough,” Jones said. “People don’t want to play back-to-back games. There are a lot of factors that go into making decisions of when we reschedule (games), when it’s convenient for us, when it’s convenient for our opponent. Certainly, if you lose one game, you can find a window to make it up. If you end up losing more games, it makes it more difficult.”

Although Nokomis Regional High School and much of Newport still had power as of Tuesday, many surrounding communities did not. Nokomis, too, canceled all practices, games and other activities Monday and Tuesday. 

Should school be closed again Wednesday, the Nokomis boys basketball will not have been together since Saturday’s game against Lawrence. In that case, the Warriors would enter Thursday’s game against Bangor having not touched the hardwood in five days.

“It’s to be determined; I think that’s the case with everything right now,” said Nokomis boys basketball coach Josh Grant. “We’re looking at multiple practices lost now, but that’s kind of just the way it is. That’s kind of the nature of high school basketball in Maine — sometimes, Mother Nature decides for you.”

Similarly, Skowhegan girls basketball coach Mike LeBlanc was hoping to get some needed game reps for his players. The River Hawks are also scheduled to play Thursday with a home game against Brewer on tap.

“It throws a little wrinkle into things,” LeBlanc said. “But we have to be prepared for when we have to play and do what we have to do to get ready to go. Unfortunately, I gave (the team) Friday off, too, because I told them if we won a game during the week, I would give them Friday off, because we had a late practice. That’s kind of backfiring in my face. We haven’t been on the court since Thursday.”

Gardiner Area High School also canceled all games and practices as the town was without power.

“We don’t have power still, and there’s a big leak in the roof at the school, so that’s not good,” said Gardiner Athletic Director Nate Stubbert. “We were scheduled to have boys and girls basketball against Brunswick, with the girls at home and the boys away, but that’s been canceled. Boys hockey was supposed to be at John Bapst, that’s canceled. Girls hockey was supposed to be at Mt. Ararat, that’s canceled. I think it’s probably par for the course for everyone else, I assume. These games will be rescheduled, and we’ll move on.”

The Gardiner girls basketball team was scheduled practice Monday, but that was called off. The Tigers have not been on a court since late last week.

“I was really bummed about not having practice yesterday, especially since we were supposed to play Brunswick (on Tuesday),” Gardiner head coach Britney Gero said. “Obviously, (Brunswick) is a very good team. I was really bummed. We didn’t have the gym on Saturday because of a wrestling tournament. My kids were already off for two days, and then we didn’t have practice yesterday. It didn’t hurt my feelings to have our game moved. We’re still trying to find our groove, so this hurts a little bit, but we’ll be OK. I encouraged my kids to go outside and help a neighbor, go do some yard work for somebody.”

The pause in play means a halt to momentum for some teams. Such is the case with Norton’s Mt. Blue boys team, which is atop Class A North at 3-0 and is fresh off a 66-58 victory over Messalonskee on Saturday.

“The kids are all dedicated, so they’ll watch film on their own and have been doing their own thing,” Norton said. “Hopefully, we can avoid losing that momentum because we’ve had a really good start to the season. … Kids like a routine — you don’t want to go too many days without touching a basketball — so they’re getting a little antsy.”

A Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference track meet involving Mt. Ararat, Oxford Hills, Leavitt, Edward Little, Winslow, Maine Central Institute and Messalonskee was still on schedule for Wednesday at Bowdoin College in Brunswick.

“The nature of indoor track is such that we’re at the mercy of the (host) university,” MCI Athletic Director Jason Allen said. “If they give us a date, we pretty much have to take that date, because that’s what we’ve got. We’ve got certain dates that we can used for makeups, but it’s likely that meet is going to happen.”


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