Corrin Hasty admitted her hopes for a field hockey season were fading. A senior midfielder at Marshwood High in South Berwick, Hasty received word from her coach on Friday that athletes across York County were cleared to compete for the first time this school year.
“It’s completely unexpected,” Hasty said. “It’s probably going to be less than a month, but that’s better than nothing. I’m super excited to see everybody and get back into it.”
The Maine Department of Education announced Friday that York County has been shifted from yellow to green on its color-coded school advisory system, meaning there is lower risk of the spread of COVID-19. The change allows high school teams in the county to begin practices as soon as early next week and, eventually, to play games.
Their fall season will be abbreviated – concluding no later than Nov. 14 – but at least now there is a month for teams to get on the field.
“Just to be able to come together one last time during my senior year and play with all these girls, it just means the world to me,” Hasty said. “We’ve become such a big family over the years.”
Schools elsewhere across the state have been allowed to practice since Sept. 14 and to take part in interscholastic competition since Sept. 25, with the exception of Oxford County schools for two weeks while that county was designated yellow.
“We’re just so excited,” said Kennebunk Athletic Director Joe Schwartzman. “We felt like we were on the island of misfit toys and we finally got off. Feel whole again.”
Schools will need to hold five days of practice before scheduling a scrimmage or game. Schwartzman said he expects Kennebunk may wait a bit longer before having any games.
“Some of our kids haven’t done anything since basketball (season),” Schwartzman said. “Before rushing into games, we’re going to plan on a week or two weeks and hopefully have a game or two, some friendlies against York County schools.”
“That’s understandable. The safety of the athletes is most important,” said Kennebunk senior Emily Archibald, a forward on the girls’ soccer team and three-sport athlete. “Even getting together as a team will be a positive thing to look forward to.”
Archibald said she hopes her team can get in a game or two, but what she’s missed the most are the routine, day-to-day interactions with teammates.
“I think the hardest thing for me was just not being able to be around such a positive group of people,” she said. “My team is just so fun to be around.”
Lily Clough, a senior field hockey player from Wells, said simply returning to action is “beyond amazing.”
“We’ve waited so long and just getting to practice will be so exciting,” Clough said. “If we can (play games), that will be fun, but I don’t need that. I’m fine with just practicing.”
Gary Stevens, the athletic director at Thornton Academy in Saco, already had a list prepared of available opponents from teams in various sports at the 13 high schools in York County.
“We didn’t have any games assigned to dates,” said Stevens, who also serves as soccer liaison to the Southwestern Maine Activities Association. “We’ll take what we have for available schools and try to parlay that into a schedule for the remainder of the season.”
Stevens said Friday marked the first day since last winter’s sports season was shut down in mid-March that he has been able to address tasks that are usually mainstays of his job.
“It’s very exciting to be thinking about practice schedules, getting equipment together, scheduling buses and getting officials,” Stevens said.
Distance runners in York County now will have an opportunity to compete for a state championship. Those dates were set Friday by the Maine Principals’ Association. The boys’ meets will be held on Nov. 11, and the girls’ meets on Nov. 14, both at Troy Howard Middle School in Belfast.
Stevens said area SMAA schools are planning a countywide cross country meet at Noble High in North Berwick on Oct. 31, one week after teams from Cumberland County hold their state-qualifying meet in Gorham.
Rich Buzzell, the athletic director at Marshwood High in South Berwick, convened a Zoom call with his coaches Friday afternoon after hearing the good news.
“We’ve been dying to go Green since September,” Buzzell said, “so we’re pretty excited.”
Buzzell said coaches will need to go over safety protocols with athletes, and then practices can begin on Monday. He expressed hope of arranging scrimmages or games with other schools the week of Oct. 26.
The change in designation means eight teams in six sports at Marshwood can begin practicing, including a football team with plans for 7-on-7 flag competition.
“We are still holding out hope that the MPA will consider a wedge season between winter and spring for football, as well as for volleyball,” Buzzell said.
Weekday afternoons have been quiet on athletic fields around the high school for much of the fall. On Monday, that will change.
“Our kids have been pretty bummed out, and our coaches, too,” Buzzell said. “Now we’re pretty excited.”
Ted Hutch, the longtime cross country coach at York High, said he will learn more Monday after a meeting involving the athletic director and school superintendent. He’s been sending workouts to his athletes and coaching them virtually.
“Our kids are running all over town,” Hutch said. “They’ve been running since June. And because I work in the school system, I get to see them in school.”
Next week, he may finally have the chance to coach them in person.
“It would be nice,” he said. “They’ve been working awfully hard.”
Matt Nelson, the superintendent of Sanford schools, said Friday that “students will be able to participate in select extracurricular and athletic activities,” according to a notice on the Sanford High website. The school went back to hybrid learning on Tuesday after several weeks of fully remote learning in the wake of a COVID-19 outbreak.
Sanford coaches will gather on Monday for a meeting, said Athletic Director Gordie Salls, “to make sure we’re ready to roll and to make sure everyone understands – again – the procedures, and then we’ll roll out practices on Tuesday.”
Salls said he had not been expecting the state to re-evaluate York County’s status until next Friday.
“It was shocking that we got that news today and it was sort of a scramble,” Salls said. “That’s OK. It’s awesome. I’m happy for the kids that we can get out and have some time for the kids to spend together and to do those things teams should be doing this time of year.”