Members of the Maranacook girls tennis team shovel off the tennis courts Monday afternoon in Readfield. Monday marked the first day all spring sports teams could practice, but the weekend storm made it difficult for many to compete outside. Mike Mandell/Morning Sentinel

READFIELD — There were two different strategies in play Monday afternoon as the Maranacook girls tennis team held its first day of team activities.

One group of players shoveled the snow the old-fashioned way, driving it toward the cagelink fences and launching it up into a large pile. The other group tried to get creative, piling it into large trash bins that would then be hauled outside the fences when full.

“It’s crazy, but that’s Maine for you,” said Lou Gingras, Maranacook’s head coach. “It’s too bad it had to happen right before we’re ready to start, but we have 27 girls this year; we can get it shoveled.”

Monday marked the first day all spring sports team could start practicing. For weeks, it appeared the bulk of sports teams would be be able to practice outdoors on clean fields and courts, but a weekend snowstorm altered plans.

After a relatively mild winter, the Maranacook tennis players had been anticipating a happy return to the outdoors. Players had even told Athletic Director Brent Remington that they were ready for a rare season that began without shoveling the surface.

Said courts had nothing but slush and ice Monday after Saturday’s storm, which dumped 15 inches of snow on Readfield. As a result, the shovels were needed more than ever Monday, while the team’s practices later in the week were moved to A-Copi Tennis & Sports Center in nearby Augusta.


“We had (to be back outside), but we’re excited we just get to hit a tennis ball around,” said junior Claire Dwyer, Maranacook’s top returning player. “Some of these girls haven’t hit in a while, so we’re just ready to get into that feeling of hitting again and getting back to the level we were last year.”

Area track and field coaches had been likewise thrilled over the conditions their facilities were in as recently as five days ago. Gardiner, of course, has a nice turf field that’s conducive to activity in all seasons, and for a while, seeing that green turf and the black ring around it had head coach Jen Boudreau hopeful.

“We’re going to be in the cafeteria doing lots of strength and core, and I’ll be getting my distance kids and my racewalkers on the treadmill,” Boudreau said. “All of that’s normal for this time of year, but after how nice it was before, we were excited to get outside. Unfortunately, Mother Nature said, ‘no.’”

Whereas a little less than a foot of snow fell in Gardiner, Maine’s mountainous areas, perhaps not unexpectedly, saw significantly more. A whopping 21.1 inches were recorded in Farmington, home of Mt. Blue High. Some of the surrounding towns in the Mt. Blue district got even more.

In the 31 years Kelley Cullenberg has been the head track coach at Mt. Blue, she can only recall five instances (one being the canceled COVID season) in which the team was able to practice outside on the first day — something it had been slated to do until last week.


“On Friday, I decided I would check to see what the track was like, and it was completely clear,” Cullenberg said. “I don’t even know why I did it because of course I knew we were going to get that snow, but it was kind of a slap in the face.”

Mt. Blue’s facilities, unlike most others, had already seen some usage this season. With the University of Farmington’s team using Mt. Blue for its practices, the northwest corner of the high school campus already had the look of a season-ready facility.

“Their outdoor season had started a bit ago, so they had already pulled out the pole vault pit and the high jump pit,” Cullenberg said. “They had actually already had a few practices. Now, who knows when we’re going to actually see the red on the track again? I have no idea.”

Other schools had been set to begin the first week of the season inside regardless of the conditions of the fields when teams were eligible to begin Monday. Such was the case at Skowhegan, where no adjustments were needed as all practices had already been scheduled to be held indoors.

As for future practices? Those, Skowhegan Athletic Director Brian Jones said, could still be affected. Sure, the 18 inches that fell in Skowhegan was enough of a setback on its own, but the rain that’s in the forecast for later this week could also compound the problem in the weeks to come.

“We were hopeful last week that track and tennis would get outside,” Jones said. “I was able to walk across the softball field, so I was hopeful that would also be ready with a few more drying days, but that’s not going to happen now, so we’ll have to come up with a gym schedule for next week, too.”

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