SACO – The roar from the crowd was almost as loud as the rain pelting the metal bleachers at Thornton Academy’s Hill Stadium.

While meet officials climbed the bleachers to the press box, ostensibly to make an announcement postponing the event, word spread rapidly that the Class A state championship track and field meet would continue on another day.

Hoards of spectators, who were sitting dutifully under crumbling umbrellas and huddled where the wind would least find them, gave up their seats and streamed toward the exits. Athletes from 29 Class A schools, most of whom sought shelter under temporary tents in an attempt to keep warm and dry, started to dismantle their shelters and exposed themselves to the caustic elements.

After one event, the games committee called off the meet, citing poor weather and dangerous conditions.

“It’s too dangerous for everyone,” said Steve Merrill, the athletic director at Windham High School and a member of the outdoor track committee for the Maine Principals’ Association. “I’m sure most of the coaches would accept this decision.”

The one event, the 4×800-meter relay, was a crucial piece of the meet to both Lewiston and Edward Little, two of the favorites going into the boys’ meet. In the race, run in the wind and rain, Lewiston won, while the Eddies came from nowhere to finish third, sandwiching fellow Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference team Mt. Ararat in second place.

“We showed that we’re strong in this weather,” said Lewiston coach Ray Putnam. “If we’d gone on the rest of the day, we could have kept going. But you have to call it in this weather. You have to. I’m wearing a rain jacket and I’m still soaked through, so you had to.”

Edward Little coach Ryan Laroche wasn’t so sure, though, that the results wouldn’t be nullified anyway, and that the meet might get fresh start at a later time.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen, but we’d sure like to keep it, too,” said Laroche.

“If you went by the rule book, that would count,” said Thornton coach George Mendros, who helped prepare and run the facility for the meet. “My personal feeling is that we should start the field events over, unless everyone took all of their trials in the long jump and the javelin (two events that ran from the beginning).”

The Maine Principals’ Association plans to meet Monday morning via conference call with the outdoor track committee to plan for the resumption of the meet. Potential snags include scheduled maintenance and graduations, which could render some sites useless on certain dates, including Thornton Academy. The football field inside the Saco track will be dug up beginning this week, and will be unusable for athletic functions.

“You do the best you can,” said Mendros.


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