By Paige Lilly, Contributing Writer
The UMF Athletics Department recently announced the start of its Racial Equity Committee (REC), which aims to create a safe environment where racially marginalized students can share their experiences while also working to make an impact here on campus. The REC announced its official presence on Monday in an Instagram post.
The group began soon after Molly Wilkie was named the UMF Athletics Diversity and Inclusion designee, a new role the NCAA now requires schools to have. As part of a group of people with this same designation at their respective Maine Division III (DIII) Universities, Wilkie realized that UMF was one of the few schools yet to have a group of this type. “I learned that many of the other schools had coalitions and groups specifically for their student athletes of color [the names of the groups are all slightly different],” Wilkie said in an email. “After learning about what other schools were doing I thought it was something vital that UMF athletics should be engaging in as well.”
Wilkie then reached out to a number of students-athletes who she thought may want to be a part of the group. “Molly emailed us and asked if it would be something we were interested in,” said Chloe Horn, a junior, field hockey player and a member of REC. “I believe she got the list of our names from our various coaches. Then we were able to set up our first meeting.”
Wilkie stressed the importance of student leaders like Horn in the success of the group thus far. “Although I am facilitating this group, it is all about the student-athlete leaders and working to support and amplify their voices and ideas,” said Wilkie.
The group aims to provide students who identify as non-white with a safe space to discuss their experiences. “Our group … wants to create a safe space for racially marginalized student-athletes for support and advocacy,” Wilkie said. “The group also wants to play a role in helping to educate about and identify the racial inequities that exist on our campus.”
“It’s the start of a conversation many students here don’t realize needs to be had,” said sophomore Mullein Francis, who is a nordic skier for UMF and a member of REC. “Because we all go to a school that is mostly white, I think a lot of people think, ‘Oh, it’s rural Maine, we don’t have to worry about that here,’ but in reality we do,” said Francis. “There are a lot of people here who deal with this kind of thing, and it’s good to be able to talk about it with people who understand.”
In fact, it’s that understanding that sparked the friendship between Horn and Francis. “We didn’t know each other before the group, it kind of started our friendship,” Horn said, sharing a laugh with Francis.
In that way, they believe the group is already beginning to be successful in bringing students who identify as non-white together, but they won’t stop there. “We have a lot of big goals,” said Francis. “We are thinking about eventually hopefully having a system where we can include other students as well, not just student athletes.”
However, Francis and Horn both agreed that the group needs a strong foundation before they can move to that goal. “We’re so ambitious, but we know that if we get too excited and try to move too fast it might hurt us in the long run. We know we need to build the group so that it’s strong, doing little events before big ones,” said Horn. In these efforts, these student-athletes believe they will be able to start an important conversation that lasts even after they graduate from UMF.
Any questions about REC should be brought to their Instagram account @umf_rec or emailed to Molly Wilkie at email@example.com.
By Abby Pomerleau, Contributing Writer
After some sports weren’t able to play games during the fall 2020 athletic season, UMF is planning to have a successful fall athletics season next semester with scheduled games and events.
Teams who could play and practice were restricted to social distancing and wearing masks while practicing and student-athletes had to complete a form before every practice for a COVID-19 screening.
With the 2021 spring season approaching, the North Atlantic Conference (NAC) and the New England Collegiate Conference (NECC), the conferences UMF’s fall athletics play in, are planning competitive games and events. “Travel restrictions will be lifted by next fall, so all things point to us being able to travel and play outside of the state of Maine,” said Cynthia Pratt, head coach of the UMF field hockey team.
Although competitions are taking place, there will still be possible restrictions during the season, such as wearing masks, and the success of the season may depend on factors related to COVID-19 vaccinations. “I am pretty confident about having fall seasons that look and feel more like a normal season,” said Julie Davis, UMF’s Director of Athletics, in an email. “So much will depend on the state of the virus, including the vaccination rate. I won’t be surprised if there is still some masking required we’ve learned when they are used consistently and properly, they work to protect both ourselves and others. I am just hopeful that the context doesn’t require them to the degree they are now.”
Games and events may be resuming as normal, but other aspects of the season may change. “I feel like bus rides and hotel stays are going to look a bit different with more spacing being put in place” said Jonah Sautter, a current junior who plays for the men’s soccer team. Bus rides and hotels are places where teams bond. Having this built-in team bonding time taken away or altered may affect the morale of the team.
In the fall of 2020, teams did practices, but they were not able to compete. Having an entire year off of competition raises concern. “My only worries are for the players on my team and how taking an entire season off might affect them,” said Pratt. “Will they be ready in the fall? Will they once again regain that competitive spirit? It will be my responsibility as a coach to be sure they are focused and prepared. I can give them all the tools and then they have to commit to being the best they can be.”
As the 2021 season rolls around, hopes are high for the competitive season to go as planned. “I’m excited and looking forward to a sense of normalcy,” said Sautter. “It’s crazy to think all of these guidelines and rules have been in place for over a year now, but I just look forward to things beginning to go back to normal.”
The athletic department may have a new normal, but the importance of the game remains the same. “I am excited to coach games,” said Pratt. “I love competition and watching my players compete to the best of their ability. I love watching them get better at practice everyday and taking all the things we work on and apply it to a game situation.”
The expectation regarding fans is that they will be able to attend outdoor games as long as they are wearing masks and social distancing. The plans for the season as well as the topic of fans are subject to change as the fall season becomes closer.
To stay updated on fall athletics or get in contact with staff in the athletic department, visit athletics.umf.maine.edu.
by Faith Rouillard, Contributing Writer
Over 125 students signed up to participate in kickball, thus launching intramural sports for the 2020-21 school year at UMF.
“Intramural sports are sports leagues that are designed to be played on campus with our UMF community,” said FRC Assistant Director Leah Brackett. Students began with kickball and after a two week season and a one week playoff period, the sport and teams will switch completely.
Games take place four nights a week at the FRC: Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 8:00-11:00 p.m. Each game takes no more than an hour and not every team plays all four nights. Senior and kickball caption Ella Russel said, “It’s important to move your body, and this a fun way to stay active!”
“Intramurals are very important right now,” said Brackett. “It is a way to keep our students engaged and on campus.”
“Intramural sports provide a way to connect with people on campus that I wouldn’t normally bump into,” said Russel. “Intramurals provide social networking, familiarity with FRC and the amenities it has, and stress relief.” Russel explained how intramural sports are an effective study break. “I recommend intramural sports to the entire student body.”
Typically, the staff provides a variety of sports and activities, including volleyball, kickball, pickleball, indoor soccer, arena football, basketball, dodgeball, among others. This year, the staff has to be cautious in what sports can take place while maintaining social distancing guidelines.
Due to the pandemic, upon arrival students are met at the door by staff members to check-in. They are required to self-screen and report to the staff. “We ask that everyone sanitizes their hands and wear a mask the entire time they are in the building,” said Brackett. The FRC is closed to the public during games and doesn’t allow spectators, limiting the number of people in the building. The staff diligently disinfects equipment periodically during games as well.
Brackett is the intramurals coordinator and leads all student staff. Callie Hammer is this year’s student leader and makes the staff schedules, referees games, “and helps out my amazing boss, Leah Brackett,” she said.
“Our staff dynamics are awesome,” said Brackett. “Working intramural sports teaches confidence and conflict resolution.” A large majority of the student staff are UMF varsity athletes.
“If you’re not on a sports team but still appreciate competition, intramural sports are a great alternative,” said Russel. Many students on varsity teams participate in intramurals but not all that participate in intramurals play varsity sports.
“For old high school athletes, intramurals gives a sense of normalcy for being on a team again,” said Hammer. “Intramurals is a great atmosphere and a lot of the students enjoy participating.”
“My goal is to increase participation in intramural sports,” said Brackett. The 125 students are spread out among nine kickball teams, but there is typically room for up to 16 teams.
“Teams are very simple to set up,” said Russel. “As the captain, I went to the Facebook page and filled out my team’s roster.” To get involved in intramural sports visit their Facebook page (UMF Intramural Sports) or their Instagram page (@umfimsports).
Pickleball will be the next sport to take place. Contact Leah Brackett via email at firstname.lastname@example.org for any COVID safe suggestions, “We are open to change and always want to do what the students want,” she said.
by Ashley Clark Contributing Writer
Near the end of summer break, UMF made the decision to allow student athletes to participate in their sports season; however, these seasons have been altered to align with the Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines.
The athletics department came to this tough decision after watching numerous videos and Zoom calls from the National College Athletic Association (NCAA), led by medical professionals.
The department is also keeping up to date with COVID-19 trends in Maine in order to protect incoming student athletes returning to school in the fall.
Julie Davis, Director of Athletics, worked with coaching and sports medicine staff on campus, in addition to attending meetings with athletic directors from within the sports conference. “You have challenges as a director anyway, but probably the hardest thing is dealing with uncertainty and ambiguity for a sustained period of time,” said Davis.
The athletic department was determined to develop a plan of action that would allow student athletes to participate in sports. They have also made it mandatory that all student athletes living on and off campus must participate in the early testing program provided by a COVID-19 testing company in the Fitness and Recreational Center (FRC).
Fall sports such as field hockey, soccer and cross country are not able to compete, but athletes are still able to attend practices.
The department has developed a month long process with differing levels of intensity for each week, with the intention for safe team practices.
The first week of practice involved routine temperature checks with no equipment use— conditioning exercises only. All practices must also consist of physical distancing at six feet, wearing a face mask and sanitizing when possible.
Jade Petrie, a junior and Early Childhood Education major, participates in both field hockey and lacrosse. Wearing her mask during her practices has been hard enough, even at the start of her fall sports season. “It’s really hard to wear because when you start to run, you breathe heavily and suck in the mask,” Petrie said. “It makes it almost impossible for you to catch your breath.”
Liz Ouellette, senior and Elementary Education major, is also a member of the field hockey team. Her last season has been impacted by the changes to the fall sports season. “There’s no team bonding, such as having dinners together, because there are too many people to be in a house. We can’t have bus rides, games, anything really,” said Ouellette.
The athletics department is working hard to assure that athletes are able to at least practice. Many are just grateful to even be able to participate with one another. “I think it is better to have something than nothing,” says Ouellette. “It’s my senior year and having practices with a team I’ve spent the past three years with is better than not being able to at all.”
Petrie praises all the department’s work and planning. “I’m thankful that they are letting us have an opportunity to pick up my field hockey and lacrosse stick, regardless of playing games,” says Petrie.
COVID-19 guidelines are changing continuously, which makes it difficult to predict how the winter and spring sports seasons will look for student athletes. While fall sports already have a plan in motion, winter and spring sports are still being discussed. Winter sports are scheduled to start practicing soon. The athletic department is “planning [these seasons] with optimism,” says Davis.
Samantha LeBeau Contributing Writer
The UMF Softball season took a hard hit as the university ordered spring sport cancellations in an attempt to restrict the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). The women’s softball team was excited to travel to Florida over spring break to kick off their season.
The annual trip to Florida is typically an exciting and challenging week for the softball team, as they play a third of their season (consisting of ten countable season games) within the course of their visit. Head Coach Katherine McKay said in an email interview, “If the season wasn’t cancelled we would be ten games into our season, having competed in all of the games in Florida.”
However, this year the trip was cancelled along with the entirety of spring sports, in an attempt to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. University athletes and fans were left disappointed as they heard the verdict of this decision. While many are not affected by this decision, the senior athletes especially, were left devastated, confused and heartbroken.
McKay would have been coaching her third season this year at UMF. “To say the least, it’s been a difficult transition and a hard reality to accept,” she said.“I know how much it broke my heart to look my three seniors in the eye and tell them they had no senior season.”
Coach McKay was just as disappointed as the players to hear the news regarding the season. “This was a complete surprise. We knew things were getting bad, but it was like a wave hit, starting in the South and continuing up the coast,” she said. “I don’t think anyone believed it would get to this point, but it did, and as devastating as it is, the important thing is the health and wellbeing of the student-athletes and their families.”
Despite this season’s cancellation, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is trying to figure out a way for seniors to have an option for a last season. “The NCAA is figuring out next season what this means for this year’s current seniors and how to give them the option for another season,” McKay said. “The plan is to start next year as if this spring didn’t happen. We will have fall ball as normal and hopefully a healthy 2021 season.”
Prior to the intended Florida trip, the women’s team devoted much of their time to training. Spending up to six days a week practicing in the UMF gym, along with two to three days a week working on strength and conditioning drills. The team planned the trip to Florida from March 14 to 24 for the first portion of their season.
Senior Captain Karen Flaherty was shocked by the news she received. “I was completely surprised that the whole season was cancelled. I knew that our spring training trip in Florida would be cancelled, but to also find out that our entire season was cancelled and to not get one last chance to play softball took me by surprise,” she said. “I was not at all expecting for the whole season to be cancelled.”
Flaherty, who would have been playing her third season at UMF said, “I do not plan on attending UMF for another year to play a final season. I had already taken an extra semester of schooling to finish my senior season this spring, but unfortunately the season got cancelled.” Flaherty was deeply saddened by the news of the season saying, “The cancellation of the season made me feel heartbroken. My heart felt like it just sunk into my chest. It still doesn’t seem real.”
Despite these trying and difficult times due to COVID-19, Flaherty leaves a bit of senior advice to underclassmen athletes, “As a captain, advice that I would give to underclassmen is to play each game like it’s your last because you never know when that game may be your last.”
Samantha Creech Contributing Writer
The head coach of men’s basketball, Dick Meader, has made a profound impact on the team since 1993. Coach Meader is in the Hall of Fame at both Thomas College and UMF for his achievements as a player and coach. This year alone, Meader has received his third Coach of the Year honor from the National Atlantic Conference (NAC), the Division III Outstanding Service Award from the National Association of Basketball Coaches and earned his 500th career win.
Meader is proud of his team and the work they’ve put in this season. “It was a great season, with a disappointing ending,” he said. “It was a tough ending that should not mask the great season that we had.”
The team went 22-5 this season, while going 13-1 in the NAC Conference regular season.
There were many factors that led to the team’s success. “We were fortunate because two days before school started, Terion Moss contacted us and he certainly made a difference in the season in a positive way,” Meader said. “We knew we had a good group of seniors, and a pretty good group of freshmen. With the seniors, it was tough to get a lot of time for the freshmen, but it will be a good team next year. A very good team.”
Meader and his staff had a strategy going into the 2019-2020 season to make it their best one yet. “The strategy really was to do what we are good at. We wanted to play fast, because we thought that was our best opportunity to score. Defensively, try to take away good shots from the opponent and rebound the basketball.”
Meader knew at a young age that he wanted to be a part of basketball because of his enjoyment of the sport. Starting in 6th grade, he knew he wanted to be a coach. “I was fortunate enough to be in the right places at the right time to be that, and have that opportunity,” said Meader.
As a UMF alumnus, Meader said the Farmington community has done so much for him throughout his years, which is one of the reasons why he has loved being a coach here for so long. “I was a first-generation kid from a very small town. I had two great coaches and two faculty members that really cared about me and wanted me to do well, and made sure I did the right things,” he said.
“The college itself is me. I think of it as it being my home. It did so much for me. To be able to coach here the last few years, I didn’t expect to, but all of a sudden there was an opening and it was the best decision I’ve ever made.”
He has made an incredible impact on his players throughout the years and has the respect of many throughout New England. Senior forward, Billy Ruby, said Meader has influenced him a lot these last four seasons. “Coach Meader has had a huge impact on my collegiate basketball career,” he says. “He has given me a lot of confidence on the court throughout my four year career. That is something that I always struggled with in my game before coming to UMF. Whenever there is a problem or something that I need assistance with, I can always rely on Coach Meader for assistance. It’s more than just basketball, he really wants his players to succeed in life. “
Ruby isn’t the only player who has had a positive experience with Coach Meader. First Year forward, Drew Storey, has been a part of the Men’s Basketball program for one season, but can already identify his favorite things about his head coach. “One of my favorite things about Coach Meader is how he knows so much about the game of basketball and wants to give back to it,” he said. “His coaching style is very unique I think because of that. He’s been around basketball for so long he knows exactly what to do every single time.”