WINTHROP — The athletic teams at Winthrop have been grabbing headlines for weeks but the only thing that athletes were grabbing at Winthrop High School on Monday were rebounds on the basketball court.

It’s still November, the same month that the school’s field hockey team won a state championship and the football team lost in its state final, but Monday — the first day of preseason for Maine high school winter sports except for girls hockey, which started two weeks ago — was a proverbial turning of the page as the high school sports calendar flipped from fall to winter.

Andrew Foster, center, runs through a drill on Monday during the first day of basketball practice at Winthrop High School. Foster just finished football season over the weekend. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

Senior Andrew Foster sauntered into the school’s gym before his first boys basketball practice of the season while the girls team was on the court finishing up its energetic first practice. But he could be excused if his energy level didn’t match his schoolmates that were already nearly two hours into their own practice.

“I’m still a little beat up from football, but a couple days from now it’s all going to go away and just be straight basketball season,” Foster, the starting quarterback on the Ramblers football team that lost to Foxcroft in Friday’s Class D state final, said. “I’m still in shape for basketball — I’m not in any rough shape, I’d say. I’m a little beat up, but I don’t think it will affect me any.”

Foster said he was mentally prepared for basketball before removing his football pads for the final time.

“It’s obviously hard to make the transition, but I think — right after that game, I was telling my teammates, I’m like, ‘On to basketball, boys,’ because this season is just as important as that season was, and I think we can be just as successful and get to that (boys basketball state) final,” Foster said.

It was a longer wait from fall to winter for Winthrop girls basketball senior Lydia Rice, who played for the Monmouth/Winthrop girls soccer team.

“Once soccer ended, it was like three weeks before basketball, and I was like, ‘This is way too long,'” Rice said. “I feel like I’m not conditioned now. It’s crazy. I feel like I have to gain all my conditioning back. And it’s hard to go from a field to a gym.”

Like Foster, Rice said she was mentally ready to jump right into basketball.

Winthrop girls basketball head coach John Baehr watches Lucy Vachon run through a defense drill on Monday during the first day of basketball practice. Baehr is new to the girls team after several years as an assistant coach with the boys team. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

“Like I was ready to go the day soccer ended,” Rice said. “A week break would have been nice. Three weeks was a lot to me.”

That enthusiasm was welcomed by first-year Winthrop girls basketball coach John Baehr.

“It’s very nice to see them — I got here at 1:30 (for a 2:30 practice), there were girls showing up at 1:45. So for them to be just as excited as I am is huge,” Baehr said. “And just to bring the energy for 60 minutes or 120 minutes, that’s huge to have them match your energy because I’m always going to be an energy guy.”

Baehr said it’s a trait he shares with Winthrop boys basketball coach Todd MacArthur, for whom Baehr served as an assistant and JV coach over the past decade.

“First and foremost, I couldn’t be happier for him,” MacArthur said of Baehr. “He’s been a huge part of our success. He’s one of the best coaches I know. I’m a big supporter of his. And I think he’s going to do a tremendous job being on his own, and I’m happy for him. For our own program, that’s a loss. And that’s something that we’re going to have to figure out.”

The boys practice also didn’t lack energy. The Ramblers started with stationary stretching and then went right into an end-to-end defensive drill.

Winthrop boys basketball coach Todd MacArthur watches Logan Baird handle the ball Monday during a drill at the high school. Monday was the first day of practice for most winter sports teams. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

MacArthur said he’ll have to figure out how to ease the football players back into basketball shape after their fall season ended so close to the start of basketball. But he’s been in communication with those players and he knows they’ll be going 100 percent when they’re ready.

Logan Baird, another Ramblers football player, said a few extra days would have been nice to recover, “but it’s good to get into something else to get your mind off of it.”

Baird and Foster’s minds are now both on the next gold ball that they’re chasing.

“It’s always the goal,” Foster said. “So I think Coach is going to preach it, we’re all going to follow it. It’s just always our goal and we’re going to work as hard as we can for it, and I feel like that’s just the good thing about the program, I guess.”

MacArthur said that a championship “is always the end goal, but we never think about the end goal before we start the first day. We have our work cut out for us, in terms of where we are right now in basketball, because through COVID, we don’t have many players right now that have been part of the success that we’ve had in the past.”

Baehr has brought that same championship mentality to the Winthrop girls team. And he’s inheriting a roster that has some holdovers from the 2019-20 team that reached the state championship game, as well as features some players from the Ramblers’ Class C field hockey state championship team this fall, who know what it takes to win a gold ball.

Winthrop’s Maddie Perkins, Haley Williams and Morgan Fitchorn run through a drill under the supervision of new head coach John Baehr on Monday at Winthrop High School. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

Rice said she’s just happy to have a chance to chase a championship, something that didn’t happen last winter, when there were no state tournaments.

“It just didn’t feel normal last year. Like playoff games were in our gym,” Rice said. “It just didn’t feel like a season, to be honest, or like a completed season.”

After completing her first practice of the year, she said she is excited about this season — a sentiment unsurprisingly shared by Baehr as well as MacArthur, Baird and Foster before the first practice of the season.

“I don’t think there’s going to be a dull moment on this team,” Rice said. “I think we’re going to be up and at ’em 24/7 and we’re going to come at people and they’re not going to realize what’s happening.”

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