Hayley Smith and Morgan Zetts share some space on the sidelines as their Telstar High softball team battled the Spruce Mountain Phoenix, coming up short, 13-2. Rose Lincoln

BETHEL — Telstar girls and boys basketball; softball, and baseball will all play against smaller schools in the East/West Conference beginning this Fall.

Telstar administrators received approval earlier this month to move the four teams from the Mountain Valley Conference where they have consistently been one of the smallest schools to East/West. The change will lead to more balanced and competitive match-ups for the Telstar athletes from Bethel, Woodstock, Gilead, Greenwood, Hanover, Newry and Andover, who for the past several years have been outnumbered in matches against larger schools.

MSAD 44 Superintendent Mark Kenney said, “to have a chance in every outing, and to be against schools of their size, is something they [the athletes] haven’t experienced, so we have to at least try it.”

Field hockey, skiing, track and cross-country will stay in MVC where Telstar will move to associate membership.

Football operates in it’s own conference, the Campbell Conference, while girls and boys soccer will continue in their separate 8 v. 8 league, based on location, for now. However, Kenney said the goal would be to move soccer back to 11 v. 11 eventually, when the numbers are sustainable. For now, “it’s better to have a bench and players and not be spread too thin,” he said.

Kenney, Telstar High School Principal Jon Eliot, and Telstar Middle/High School Athletic Coordinator Gail Wight, met at Telstar to discuss the changes. Eliot said the three began discussing this last year when they were moved to the D Class within MVC.  Only one other school was left in the D Class. The Maine Principal’s Association moved them to D because of  their win/loss percentage and their size.


“When we saw who we were playing, mostly B’s [larger schools] … we as an [administrative] team decided this might be the time to start something different, to help the kids,” said Eliot.


To give adequate notice, Wight called MVC and Kenney wrote to East/West.

Wight said, “We didn’t want to walk in and say ‘we are gone,’ [When] people are building schedules [for the Fall].”

Wight attended two recent meetings. The first was to change Telstar’s status within MVC.

At the second meeting around a large table with 13 East/West Conference athletic directors there were initial concerns regarding Telstar’s size. However successful recent transitions by similarly sized schools, Carrabec, Buckfield, and Wiscasset from MVC to the East/West Conference bolstered Telstar’s acceptance


Wight had to leave the room when the other AD’s voted. She found out Telstar was accepted to the East/West right after the Augusta meeting on May 1.

Going forward

Kenney said they will go from being the smallest school in the MVC to the biggest school in the East/West.

They will be traveling longer distances to some of the other schools.  Two of their East/West competitors are island communities Vinalhaven and Isleboro, who they will likely play on Saturdays because they will need to be in Rockland to get on an 8:45 a.m. ferry, said Wight.

“It will be an experience,” added Kenney.

They won’t know until the scheduling committee meets if they will be allowed to have cross over games against traditional rivals, Mountain Valley and Dirigo.



Similar to Telstar’s many academic offerings, the school offers students many sports choices each season. Kenney recognizes that the additional athletic options sometimes mean a smaller bench for each Telstar sport. The many options are something they hope to keep but will continue to keep an eye on.  (Smaller schools often will limit students’ choices, keeping their benches robust).

Playing “outside the season” builds an athlete’s skill level and competitiveness, they all agreed.

Eliot said “ultimately if the teams are going to get better they need to practice more outside the season.  “A lot of these schools we play against might be larger than us but they also have good summer programs [and summer camps as we once did],” he said.

School spirit

Kenney said currently the students who play sports support each other but they would like to grow [school spirit] beyond that.


“We are hoping for [athletic matches] to be exciting. We saw [the excitement] in Augusta [at the basketball playoffs].” said Wight.

“It has been hard the last 10 years, being undermanned and struggling and not competitive and not being able to put together seasons where they could be above .500. They haven’t had any other experience other than that. This will hopefully give [the students] a chance to be a little more competitive make the post season, build the programs up.

“Start to get back to the traditions that used to be here in our sports programs when they were successful and would make it to the playoffs in postseasons on a regular basis and had that sense of school pride and sense of accomplishment. It’s been a long time since we have been there,” said Kenney.

It was 54 years ago,  in October 1970 when Telstar first joined Mountain Valley Classic. Their new status in East/West will be probationary for one year.

Kenney stressed that the decision to move some of the teams to East/West, “is a ‘for now’ decision, it is not ‘a forever’ decision,” he said.

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