Intramural Sports Kick Off the New School Year

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 leah.brackett@maine.edu for any COVID safe suggestions, “We are open to change and always want to do what the students want,” she said.

Athletes to See Season Changes Due to Pandemic

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.

UMF Softball Season Cancelled

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.”

Basketball Coaching Legend Creates Lasting Legacy at UMF and Beyond

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.”

UMF Women’s Basketball Team Holds Head High Despite Championship Loss

Samantha LeBeau Contributing Writer

    The UMF Women’s Basketball team had a successful season overall, despite recently losing to Husson during the North Atlantic Conference Championship (NAC) game. This year’s outcome leaves the team with a somewhat disappointed, but determined mindset as the season comes to an end and they look towards the future.

    The women’s team traveled to Husson for the weekend to play at Maine Maritime Academy (MMA) and Husson for the NAC Championship title. In the NAC final four, UMF faced MMA winning 70-63, then challenged Husson for the title, losing 70-60. 

    The team finished in fifth place last year in the NAC. This year, however, they stood in third.Every season is different and we will face new challenges a year from now,” Head Coach Jamie Beaudoin said. “Our group is certainly excited about the opportunity to see if we can take the next step and earn a bid to the NCAA Tournament.” 

     Although Husson was undefeated this year, UMF anticipates a fight for the title in the next season. 

    Beaudoin, who has been head coach for 20 years, reflects on the progress from last season. “We made improvements in our record from a year ago, but we also raised our level of competition,” he said. “Improved players and giving our best effort in practice led us to be more prepared for our games.” 

    Assistant Coach Noah Carroll said, “The girls played really well this weekend and throughout our playoff run. I think they really hit their stride, and the shots started to fall this weekend at a high percent.” 

    This left Carroll with high hopes and expectations for next season. Despite the loss to Husson, “I would say our season went really well,” Carroll said. “We doubled our wins and made it to the championship game, which the program hasn’t done since 2007, I believe.” 

    Beaudoin believes that the girl’s determination to improve is going to carry the team to next year’s NAC Championship, “We must have a great summer with individual development, and return to campus in the fall hungry for success,” he said. “Next year we’ll have sixteen girls returning in hopes to get back to the NAC Championship and to win.”

    First year player Samantha Creech said, “We beat MMA for the first time this season, after losing to them twice in the regular season.” She said, “No one gave up during that game and that is what helped the team win.” 

    Many fans from Farmington traveled to Husson to support their home team in the championship game. “The atmosphere of the games this weekend were great, we had a lot of fans from Farmington at both games.” Creech said. “You could feel the intensity when the scores were close from the crowd.” Although the girls fell to Husson in the final game Creech said, “I can’t speak for the rest of the team and for Coach, but I thought the season was a success! We made it to the Championships!”

UMF Senior Qualifies for New England Indoor Track and Field Championship

Abbie Hunt Contributing Writer

    Senior Katie Leblanc recently qualified for the New England Indoor Track and Field Championship in the 5k. At the beginning of the indoor track season, Leblanc was placed 28th nationally in that race. 

    Leblanc qualified for the championship at the team’s second meet of the season at the University of Southern Maine (USM). Both Leblanc and Coach Joseph Disalvo, who is no longer coaching at UMF, decided Leblanc’s goal for the season was to qualify for New Englands. The qualifying cut off time for the New England Championship is 18:50, and Leblanc ran her race in 18:46 at the USM meet. 

    She was close to qualifying at her first race of the season. She went into the race knowing she needed to run 45 seconds per lap (200 meters) to reach her goal. The 5k race is 25 laps around the track. Her initial goal was to qualify at USM, but both she and Disalvo were not expecting her to qualify as early in the season as she did.

     At USM, the 5k was her only event. She typically runs the 3k and 5k at meets, but she didn’t want to race both in one day. Leblanc remembered the 5k was the last event of the entire meet. “I was waiting all day,” she said. 

    Leblanc was focused on her first lap. “When I first started I was really focused because Coach [Disalvo] told me I went out too fast in the race before,” she said. Disalvo was at the 100 meter mark on the track to make sure she was running each lap at the right pace. The race was a mental game. After the first few laps, she was on her own. 

    Tabitha Lingar, another distance runner on the indoor track team, was there supporting Leblanc during her race. “I was extremely nervous and very anxious for her because she didn’t know if she’d be able to push herself enough that race,” said Lingar. “There were not many other competitors to push her. All of the girls at that meet were slower than her.” 

    Leblanc didn’t let the lack of competition slow her down. “I didn’t let myself get in my head,” she said.

    During the race, she listened to people around for motivation. Around the last seven laps of her race, her vision started going blurry due to a head cold, but she didn’t let that slow her down. 

    Lingar watched Leblanc’s whole race. “She booked it her last lap,” she said. Leblanc stumbled off the track and Lingar told her that she qualified.

    The first thing she remembered Disalvo and Lingar saying was, “you did it.”

    Assistant Coach Nickolas Shuckrow also watched Leblanc’s race. “She ran an amazing 5k,” said Shuckrow. “She ran a really tough race where she finished strong.” Although this is Shuckrow’s first season coaching the team, he found Leblanc to be dedicated. “I haven’t known Katie for very long but she is certainly deserving of the opportunity to go run at New Englands,” he said.

    At the end of the race she wanted to cry, as she tends to get emotional upon achieving her goals. It was all a blur of high energy for Leblanc the rest of the day, filled with support and excitement from her teammates who were looking forward to seeing Leblanc compete in New Englands.

    Leblanc does get nervous for races, but she always tries to remain positive. “Everybody who’s really good will be at that meet and some people are faster than you,” she said. “I get very nervous and I doubt myself which I don’t think is helpful.” 

    She recently finished the 5k again with a time of 18:35, beating her first qualifying time by nine seconds.

    The New England Indoor Track and Field Championship will be held on March 28 and 29 in Middlebury, Vermont.