Lisbon/Oak Hill’s Kiana Goldberg, left, leads all racers over the first hurdle in the 100-meter hurdle event at an MVC outdoor track and field meet in Lisbon on April 20, 2021. Goldberg went on to win the race, beating, from left, Destiny Deschaines of Lisbon/Oak Hill, Emily Kidd of Mt. Abram and Kara Jasud of Mountain Valley. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Editor’s note: This is the first in a five-part series about the five biggest sports stories in the Sun Journal’s coverage area in 2021, as selected by our sports reporters and editors.

Spring sports were the first to be affected by the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. A year later, spring athletes were the first to have a semi-normal season.

The 2021 winter season did offer a taste of postseason competition — some counties’ schools participated in basketball tournaments, and Alpine and Nordic skiing held conference championships — but no state champions were crowned.

Optimism for a spring season began to build as the winter thawed. In mid-March, the Maine Principals’ Association revealed that the 2021 spring season would start on time and that, for the first time since March 2020, teams would compete for state championships.

A few weeks later, the MPA announced that the postseason would consist of open tournaments — meaning that every school that wanted to participate, could — because there inevitably would be teams that miss games due to COVID-19.

Sure enough, spring sports were full of constant schedule juggling by athletic directors — whose efforts since the start of the pandemic have probably been underappreciated — and game officials. The open tournaments were so massive that scheduling the early rounds required finesse.

Once the postseason started, though, athletes from throughout the Sun Journal’s coverage area put on a show.

BACK ON TRACK

Edward Little’s Makenna Drouin clears the last hurdle on her way to first place in the 300-meter hurdles during the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference championship in Oakland in May. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Edward Little freshman Makenna Drouin wrapped up her first season of track and field (not first high school season, her first season participating in the sport), in style.

She won four events — the 100- and 300-meter hurdles and the 100- and 200-meter dashes — at the KVAC championships, at which the Red Eddies’ boys and girls teams swept the conference’s large school titles (conference championships throughout the state were divided into groups, and some were competed at different locations). Leavitt’s boys and girls teams did likewise at the KVAC small-medium school championships.

Poland won the girls and boys Western Maine Conference Division 2 championships. The Lisbon/Oak Hill co-op swept the Mountain Valley Conference South titles, while the Monmouth girls won a MVC North title.

The tri-county area’s track and field athletes were just getting started.

At the Class A state meet, Drouin won the girls 300 hurdles title, finished second in the 100 hurdles and fifth in the 200 dash. The Edward Little boys team finished second, bolstered by Finn Thistle’s state championship in the pole vault and runner-up finishes by Tudum Monday (110 and 300 hurdles), Jake Jackson (long jump) and Cameron Langlois (javelin).

Oxford Hills’ Atticus Soehren won the javelin title with a throw of 185 feet, 6 inches. That distance caught the attention of NCAA Division I coaches, and a few months ago Soehren committed to compete for the Penn track and field team.

At the Class B championships, Gray-New Gloucester teammates Zoe Barnes and Lorenza Piper finished first and second, respectively, in the shot put and the discus. Barnes set a new school and facility (McMahon Field in Bath) record in the discus with a throw of 128-04.

Leavitt’s trailblazing Jonathan Schomaker won the 800 and 1,600 wheelchair races and the shot put. The Leavitt boys took fifth in Class B, led by Ben Ferris’ 1,600 race walk state title and the runner-up 4×100 relay team of Manuel Driscol, Ethan Weston, Degan Jordan and Dayton Calder.

The Lisbon/Oak Hill girls team dominated the Class C state meet and claimed the program’s first state championship. Kiana Goldberg led the charge with a title in the 100 hurdles, a runner-up in the 300 hurdles and by running a leg of the state-champion 4×100 relay, along with Mackenna Poisson, Destiney Deschaines and Gabby Chessie.

“We knew we had enough talent this season, which was evident early on,” longtime Lisbon coach Dean Hall told the Times Record. “We were in a great spot all season, we just had to continue what we started when it came down to it.”

There were several individual Class C state championships won by area athletes: Winthrop’s James Cognata (boys 200 and 400 runs), Lisbon’s Hunter Burkhardt (boys 800), St. Dom’s William Levasseur (boys 3,200), Mt. Abram’s Cade Tooker (boys javelin), Monmouth’s Jared Martin (boys discus) and Chloe Dwinal (girls 1,600 race walk) and Dirigo’s Spencer Jacques (boys 1,600 boys race walk)

A few weeks after the Class C state championships, Hall announced his retirement after leading the Lisbon program for 43 years and having added the girls state title to the one the boys won in 2014.

“It was just perfect to go out on that note,” he said.

FROM TRACK TO THE FIELDS

In a normal year, the Gray-New Gloucester baseball team would not have come close to making the postseason. Due to the open tournament, the Patriots, despite having the worst regular season record in Class B, were in the playoffs as the 16th and lowest seed in B South. But they’d have to face top-seeded Yarmouth.

On that day, Ian Libby and Mike Sweeney each had three hits and drove in a pair of runs and Gray-New Gloucester pulled off an enormous upset with a 6-4 win.

“The regular season was a struggle, but after each loss, we reminded the guys that, ‘You’re in the playoffs, so we need to get a little better each day in practice to try to make a run in June,’” Jon DiBiase, who was in his first season as Gray-NG’s coach, said. “It’s baseball, anything can happen.”

The St. Dom’s baseball and the Edward Little softball teams also reached the postseason because of the open-tournament format, and then pulled off upsets. The Saints, winless in the regular season, convincingly defeated Buckfield (8-1) and Rangeley (12-1) and advanced to the D South semifinals. The 10th-seeded Red Eddies, meanwhile, defeated No. 7 Brewer 10-1.

St. Dom’s players celebrate a two-run home run by Bella Perryman (12) in the bottom of the fifth inning that gave the Saints a 5-4 lead over North Yarmouth Academy in a Class D South semifinal June 12 in Auburn. Perryman later scored the game-winning run in the ninth inning. Lee Horton/Sun Journal

The St. Dom’s softball team didn’t need the open tournament to reach the postseason, but the sixth-seeded Saints finished the regular season by winning two of their final three regular season games — after a seven-game losing streak — and carried that momentum into the playoffs and all the way to the D South regional final, where they lost to eventual state champion Searsport.

All four teams in the Class C South baseball semifinals were from the Sun Journal’s coverage area: Oak Hill, Lisbon, Monmouth and Mt. Abram, which advanced to the semifinals when Hunter Warren no-hit Sacopee Valley in the quarters (one of two no-hitters Warren was part of).

The Greyhounds upset the top-seeded Raiders and Cam Armstrong had yet another clutch performance to help the Mustangs oust the Roadrunners. Armstrong then pitched Monmouth past Lisbon and into its first state title game since 2001. The Mustangs fell to Orono in the Class C championship.

Away from the diamonds, the Oak Hill/Lisbon/Monmouth boys lacrosse team reached its first MPA-sanctioned state championship game in program history. Led by Tiger Hopkins, who set a school single-season scoring record with 61 goals and 44 assists, the Raiders plowed through the regular season undefeated, then beat Traip, St. Dom’s and Wells in the postseason before falling to Waynflete in the Class C title game.

Monmouth’s Cam Armstrong, center, celebrates with teammates after the Mustangs defeated Lisbon in the Class C South state championship game June 17 at Saint Joseph’s College in Standish. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

The area’s girls lacrosse teams didn’t quite replicate that success, but Lewiston and Oxford Hills did make runs to the A North semifinals.

The Winthrop/Maranacook boys tennis team, which wondered if it was going to have enough players to field a team, reached the Class C South regional final for the second straight time, and Lewiston’s Julia Svor battled into the girls Class A quarterfinals at the individual tournament, which was held at the newly renamed Coach Anita Murphy Courts at Lewiston High School.

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