Winthrop pitcher Trent Collin, left, runs in to cover the plate as Hall-Dale’s Ben Nathan scores on a wild pitch during a baseball game April 24 in Winthrop. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

The beginning and end of the 2024 spring sports season both brought me to the same location — and, my goodness, how much things change in a month and a half.

As I’m writing this, it’s been 44 days since I covered one of my first games of the spring, a Hall-Dale at Winthrop baseball game. I had on a sweatshirt and jeans but, regrettably, no umbrella, a mistake for which I paid dearly during squalls of rain throughout the game. Looking back on it, I probably spent as much time trying to keep my work phone and microphones dry as I did focusing on the game.

It couldn’t have been a much different experience as I returned to Winthrop on Tuesday to watch the Ramblers play a Class C South prelim game against Mountain Valley. The wind and rain were nonexistent, and the sun was beaming, the perfect setting for a thrilling game that, fittingly, took extra innings to decide.

It’s a time of year we need to embrace, something I’ve been making sure to do myself with only nine days remaining before the 2023-24 high school sports season comes to a close. These first two weeks of June are ones all of us, from players to fans to coaches to even we sports scribes in the media, deserve.

There’s a lot going on this time of year. Seniors are graduating and preparing to head off to college or into the workforce. Underclassmen are applying to schools or thinking about their own futures, futures that will be the present at this time next year or two or three years from now. In the midst of it, there’s been final exams and AP testing, not to mention the start of summer jobs.

It’s a lot to handle for these student-athletes, not to mention their parents. Many of them are teachers themselves and are surely at their wit’s end with the stress that comes with the end of the school year, though they’re far from the only ones who are overburdened by the strain that comes from the late spring. Athletic administrators, too, are at the end of their ropes as they plan some of the biggest sporting events of the year.


In short, everyone’s stressed, stress that cuts through the June air with a knife and is exacerbated by the glorious weather making us all more antsy than ever for summer to arrive. Yet it’s a stress that’s starting to lift now that schools are done for the year — and it all coincides with a two-week period that makes it all feel worthwhile.

Of all the sports seasons, spring has the toughest beginning. It begins in late March, well before the grass here in Maine is ready for play. The snow can still come, something I was reminded of March 25 as I watched the Maranacook girls tennis team shovel a foot and a half of it off the courts. Even a month later, sub-50-degree temperatures, rain and howling winds make for some dreary settings such as that first game at Winthrop.

The finish to the spring sports season, though? What a finish it is. Track and field under the sun, where the sprints are faster and the throws are longer; tennis beneath the gazebo at Bates College; baseball and softball on the greenest of green fields, now more pristine than ever with the winter behind us; lacrosse on turf, turf that’s warmer than ever with the sun’s rays heating the synthetic rubber.

Onlookers watch as Mount View’s Wyatt Evensen springs forward into the sand pit in the long jump at the Class C track and field state championships June 1 at Saint Joseph’s College in Standish. Caroline Burns photo

That doesn’t even account for the action unfolding. Of the three playoff baseball games I’ve covered this week, two were decided by one run with the other going to extra innings; 33 lower-seeded teams have upset higher-seeded teams across the diamond sports, tennis and lacrosse; both team titles at the Class B track and field championship meets in Bar Harbor on Saturday came down to the final event. You can’t ask for anything more.

It comes fast, though. With every game, fewer remain, and just when it seems the action is reaching its peak, the last of the trophies are lifted, and the season reaches an end. Yet that also makes these two weeks the perfect summer sendoff before we begin enjoying the sunshine by the beach and at the park, not in the bleachers, and take long trips for family vacations, not to attend games, meets or matches.

MCI’s Ava Vardaros plays first singles against Erskine during a girls tennis match May 21 in South China. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Still, that time can wait. The June 15 finales might not seem too far off, but the amount of action that can be packed into just seven or eight days is remarkable. With the exception of track and field and singles tennis, no championships have been awarded, meaning no one’s story for the 2024 season has truly been written. There’s more twists and turns to come, twists and turns that make covering sports for a living a truly rewarding experience.

That such a race to the finish coincides with a time of year that the springtime stress begins to fade isn’t a coincidence. Just as a time of year that can be quite a bind for players, parents, administrators and coaches in different ways gives way to a joyful ending, the setting these days — both that of the warmer weather and the fervent atmosphere of championship competitions — is better these days, too.

Let’s enjoy that better. After all, we’ve earned it.

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