Albinism Won’t Stop This Alpine Skier

Albinism Won’t Stop This Alpine Skier

Krystin Paine Contributing Writer 

    Mackenzie MacDonald, a UMF junior and alpine skier, has been invited to train in Breckenridge, Colorado to ski for the second year in a row and hasn’t let her skiing skills be hindered by a visual impairment caused by ocular albinism.

    Ocular albinism is a genetic condition that affects a person’s pigmentation in the hair, skin, and eyes. This reduction of pigmentation in the iris, the colored part of the eye, is what causes MacDonald’s impaired vision. It is a recessive gene disorder, meaning that both parents have to be carriers of this gene. This gives the child a 25% chance of inheriting the condition.

    “This is how all recessive gene disorders work,” MacDonald said. “My vision is kind of hard to explain, so I have no depth perception at all and very little peripheral vision.”

    MacDonald explained that her visual acuity is 20/200 with glasses. This means that whatever a person with perfect vision can see at 200 feet, she can only see at 20 feet with glasses. “I honestly have no idea what it is without them, just that it’s worse. This also is the exact acuity that you have to have to be considered legally blind,” MacDonald said. “It also means that I will never be able to drive. The law in the state of Maine is that you must have 20/70 vision at the very least.”

    Last December, MacDonald left the Maine mountains to ski at the Disabled Sports, USA’s Ski Spectacular in Colorado. “There’s so many people with so many different types of disabilities [and abilities]. It amazes me to hear all their stories and how they got to where they are,” she said.

    Feeling incredibly grateful for the experiences, she loved connecting with all of the people she met there. She loved that despite the different situations, all of the people worked hard to be there and were working even harder to succeed while being there. “It’s just amazing and I hope everyone can experience something like that. It just opens your mind up to so much,” MacDonald said. She even met people who had the same dream as her, to become a Paralympic alpine skier.

    Jenny Hancock, also a UMF junior and skier, agreed with MacDonald and said that MacDonald’s future was the paralympics. “I see a bright future ahead for Mack. I want her to believe in herself as much as I believe in her, have her dream big, and not look behind her.” Hancock said. 

Mackenzie MacDonald skiing during a race. (Photo courtesy of Disabled Sports USA)

    MacDonald and Hancock met spring semester of their freshman year when they were both on ski team and were ski coaches together for snowcats. “Who knew our short little car rides would turn into us becoming best friends,” said Hancock. “Skiing with Mackenzie is truly inspiring to me. No words describe Mack and her skiing. It brings tears to my eyes talking about it. It instantly puts a smile on my face.”

    Hancock was ecstatic when talking about MacDonald’s invite to go back again this year to train because it was a great experience for her last year. “Mackenzie got a taste of different conditions we don’t always see here and it will be awesome for her to learn more about herself in the progression,” Hancock said. “I could feel her passion, and happiness this sport brought her. Mack has improved a ton since I have known her. I am very proud of her frustrations that she has overcome!”

    While in Colorado, MacDonald had a guide with her, Brie Marquis. Marquis’ job is to either ski in front of MacDonald and have MacDonald follow her, or behind MacDonald, to help watch and improve her skills. “For me, my guide skis in front of me and I follow them at a very close distance,” MacDonald said. “My guide tells me if there’s going to be a pitch change, when the hill gets steeper, when the snow consistency changes, soft to hard or fluffy snow or vise versa, and bumps and stuff like that.”

    “We talk through a headset radio setup. So I can hear her and she can hear me. This is something new we have implemented for me in the last couple years. It’s different for every visually impaired athlete according to their abilities,” said MacDonald. “It’s a really cool thing to watch how each athlete uses their guide because everyone has different needs.”

    “I believe that having Brie step up and wanting to be Mack’s guide is awesome,” Hancock said, “I think [Makenzie] has grown and is still growing, but having consistency with Brie being her guide is wonderful.”

    Marquis, not only MacDonald’s guide but a UMF skier as well, agreed with Hancock when talking about being MacDonald’s guide and going to the event with her. “It was an incredible experience. For this event, guiding Mack meant meeting all new people and being immersed into the Paralympic community was so cool,” Marquis said. 

    To Marquis, being a guide for the first time was not easy. “Last collegiate season, Mack and I did not have a microphone on our helmets so that made it a bit harder,” Marquis said. “I can only be about a gate length ahead of Mack in order for her to see me so not having a microphone meant I have to turn around just about every gate.”

     “At Paralympic nationals, we did have a microphone which made the task a lot easier. However, I still had to turn around a lot. It really just meant that Mack could give me feedback in the course versus at the bottom.” Marquis said. “The toughest part in my mind is that I cannot fall. My top priority is getting Mack down the hill so me falling makes that impossible. It’s a tough job to be honest, but oh my goodness, it is so worth it.”

    Marquis and MacDonald both skied on the Alpine Ski team at UMF. “Freshman year, Mack was quiet around our team and didn’t have a consistent guide,” Marquis said. “Last year she opened up, socially as well as in her skiing ability. At our college races, she was beating a handful of able bodied skiers and her confidence in herself grew so much. She made huge strides in her skiing and I cannot wait to see her keep improving.”

     MacDonald will be leaving to train in Colorado from Dec. 9 to 15. Marquis will be joining her to be her guide once again.

UMF Faculty Poetry Film Takes Flight

UMF Faculty Poetry Film Takes Flight

Faith Diaz Contributing Writer

    Recently creative writing professors Jeffrey Thomson and Amy Neswald launched their joint project, “Blink”, a poetry film based on Thomson’s work from his new book, “Half Life: New and Selected Poems.” Thomson is currently the Creative Writing Director at UMF and works alongside Newswald, who has just secured the position of Associate Professor of Screenwriting and Creative Writing.

    In September 2018, at the annual BFA staff reading, Thomson read and performed his poem, “Blink.” The poem follows a man whom has just had his head cut off. Legend suggests that the man, Antoine-Laurent de Lavoisier, suggested that his friend watch his execution and count as Lavoisier attempted to blink numerous times after the separation of the head from the body. Lavoisier wanted to see if they could record this phenomena and had hoped someone would following his death. In some way, his wish was fulfilled. 

    The legend found its way to Thomson, and his poem counts and describes what Thomson imagines Lavoisier saw in those seconds of death approaching, between the blinks, and after the head had been removed. 

Amy Neswald and Jeffrey Thomson (Photo courtesy of Faith Diaz)

    Upon seeing Thomson’s performance of this historically fascinating legend, Neswald immediately knew she wanted to utilize it in a film platform. “I was gobsmacked by it from the very first time I heard it. I approached him shortly after to ask him if he would be willing to sacrifice it to me for a short film.” Neswald said.

    At the time, Neswald had just begun at UMF and was a bit hesitant, but the work dictated her need to pursue it, “Even though I didn’t know what it would look like, I knew it was a perfect piece to tell visually. It deals with what someone is seeing, as he’s dying, through these series of blinks. And [Thomson] said, ‘Yes.’ and that was that.” 

    Neswald’s background is in screenwriting and having spent years in the backstage of Broadway, poetry was a new avenue for her to be exploring. “One of the reasons I wanted to make a poetry film is because I am one of those horrible fiction writers who says constantly that I don’t understand poetry, I’m not a poet, and I thought this would be a really good way for me to get inside a poem and understand it from a vantage point that I could. To live inside a poem for a while. And I lived inside of it for a really long while.” 

    The process of figuring out what the aesthetic of the film was going to be was complicated and continuously changed. “I was aiming to make something very simple and stark,” Neswald said. “Originally I wanted to do a muslin background with a moving black thread [that would] kind of like sew different panels in a stop motion way.” 

    Neswald soon realized that the images weren’t coming out the way she intended so, she switched her tactic and stumbled upon an aesthetic she loved, based on the image of the text that stuck with her most. “Thinking about one section of the poem that’s really visual about clovers in a field and in looking at pictures of clovers and fields in France, I stumbled on an aesthetic that was far from my personal aesthetic. Which was super frightening but also kind of exciting.” 

    Neswald believes that even if a project is frightening, that one should pursue it anyway. This was a guiding philosophy that helped her keep up the motivation for this project. 

    “I built my pictures, my layers in photoshop, my puppets, decided what the moving parts would be and how to compose them,” Neswald said. “It was a collection of images from mostly the internet that I adjusted deeply and greatly that I used as a collage to create the scenery and puppets.” 

    Eventually, the project came together. “When I start a project, I am always a beginner because each project wants to be told in a different way, so, to be an absolute beginner and I have never made a poetry film, and I’ve animated before but I have never animated in this way,” Neswald said. 

    “And I’ve never worked on someone else’s work in a collaboration in this format and then to be working with someone who is kind of a big deal, I stepped outside of my comfort zone quite a lot on this project.” 

    In October of this year, Neswald flew to Cork, Ireland, where her film was Shortlisted for O’Bheal Award.

Sugarloaf Encourages the Wonders of Winter to UMF Students

Sugarloaf Encourages the Wonders of Winter to UMF Students

Graci Wiseman Contributing Writer 

    Walking into the recent Outdoor Recreation Job Fair, the whole atmosphere breathed winter, encouraging students to get outside and enjoy the glistening outdoor wonders of the season and the experience that comes with it.    

    Sugarloaf, a staple of Maine tourism and winter recreation, is a popular choice of seasonal employment among students. Employers there are looking to find students who are passionate about skiing and the outdoors as much as they are, and welcome students to the friendly, family environment they have created over the years. 

    Gabby Stone, the Manager for Reservations at Sugarloaf, has a strong connection to the mountain and the atmosphere it creates.“This was the only place I’ve ever skied at, I came on vacations and I spent every vacation week, long weekend and all other weekends at the mountain,” said Stone.“I started at a young age, 18 months to be exact and it made sense for me to do nothing but be there and be apart of it.” 

    Stone has always known working at sugarloaf would be in her future. “As a kid I have always wanted to work there, but didn’t know it would turn into something I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” she said.

     Stone is not the only one who has a love for Sugarloaf,  which has made it a major vacation destination for many years. “I believe that sugarloaf is a place where you come for a reason and a place where you want to be,” said Stone. “Go see for yourself!” 

     Charli Sayward, a UMF graduate, also works at Sugarloaf. She has had many different careers before she took the job as Events Coordinator at Sugarloaf. “I taught at Carrabassett Valley Academy and worked at Three Rivers during the summer, I then moved on to work at the Sugarloaf Inn before taking over the Events Manager position at Sugarloaf,” she said.

    Sugarloaf provides many opportunities for people who enjoy skiing. “For me it is a natural fit, I love the outdoors and the recreational aspect of working at Sugarloaf,” said Sayward.

Charli Sayward (Photo courtesy of Graci Wiseman)

    She encourages everyone to embrace the outdoors and exercise.“It is all about you and what makes you happy and finding what fits for you,” said Sayward. “Finding something that you love where you get to be outdoors can really benefit your mental health.” 

    Kayla Begin, a sophomore English major, has been skiing for as long as she can remember and the sport has helped her to emotionally overcome a pressing medical concern with an immediate family member.

    “It was an emotional escape for me when I didn’t think I needed one,” said Begin. “It all started when I was 4 years old and we took a ski vacation to Pennsylvania; ever since that day I fell in love with skiing.” 

    When Begin was in high school she continued to pursue skiing. “Throughout high school skiing made me feel like myself, when I was going through a rough time,” said Begin. “I also taught at Lost Valley[ski resort] when I was 15 and it was my first job.” 

    Begin started working at Sugarloaf last year, but has already learned so much. “I was teaching with people who have been doing skiing for years, and I am still getting used to it, but I continue to learn and love what I am doing,” said Begin.

    Begin has always enjoyed winter and the activities that came with it. “I always liked winter, I first started doing figure skating along with skiing for 10 years each,” said Begin. “But I stuck with skiing because how cool it was and I wanted to share it with younger generations.”               

    Sugarloaf is meaningful to many people as Stone knows the mountain, “is a part of many peoples lives, and will always be a part of mine.”

     If you are interested in applying or would like more information, go to

UMF Men’s Basketball Gears Up for Upcoming Season

Riley Bartell Contributing Writer

    The 2019-20 college basketball season is revving up, and UMF’s team has a lot of potential in both returning players and new. This year’s team is dominated by upperclassmen mixed in with some younger talent. Four starters are returning from last year’s team as well as several others who have contributed significantly off the bench. 

    The 2018-19 season ended with a one-point loss to Thomas College in a closely contested semifinal playoff game, finishing off the season with a 16-10 overall record, 11-4 in conference play. The team hopes to come back strong this year and win the NAC championship. 

    Chase Malloy, a UMF senior, is rejoining the team this year after a two-season hiatus. “This year’s team is unique because there is a large group of seniors who have experience and great chemistry,” said Malloy, “Any starter can score twenty plus on any given night.”  

    Malloy decided to play this year because the UMF team offers the opportunity to play competitively at a high level for a great coaching staff. He has high hopes for the team this year. “With the team we have this year, we could win the conference, host the tournament, and hopefully make a run in the NCAA tournament,” said Malloy. “Having a winning record against schools in Maine is also a goal of ours every year.” 

    Nathan Poulin, a UMF sophomore, is one of the younger players on the team. “This team is unique because we have a lot of seniors who are very experienced. They take a lot of us younger guys under their wings and help us develop as players,” said Poulin. “The ultimate goal would be to bring the NAC championship home.”

    Games begin on Saturday, November 9, at 1:00 with a home game versus University of Maine Augusta.

UMF’s Spookiest Celebration of the Year

UMF’s Spookiest Celebration of the Year

Zion Hodgkin Contributing Writer

    Amidst the flashing strobe lights and roaring jams of the last two years, you could almost forget you were standing in a school cafeteria.

    Every year, on the last Saturday before Halloween, UMF’s Association for Campus Entertainment (ACE) club transforms the Student Center into a spooky celebration. The Halloween dance has been one of the most anticipated annual events held at the school for the last few years. “A bunch of people show up,” said Madison Vigeant, one of the members of the ACE club putting the event together, “we usually have like 400 to 500 people every year.” 

    Sarah Szantyr, another member, chimed in saying, “And that includes students at the school, and also guests. I think we usually have about 100 to 150 guests each year.”

    Inside the dance, it’s clear which of these students had been there before, as they immediately made their way to the front of the room, right before the stage, and started dancing, their costumes and accessories swinging around them. 

    “The dance has been going on for quite a long time,” Vigeant said, “at least five years, I would say, [but] probably ten.” 

    Szantyr nodded slightly. “It’s been going on since we’ve been here. This will be our third year putting it on.”

    A student walked up to the table by the entrance to the dance, where Vigeant sat, and investigated the baskets brimming with items at the end of the table. “They’re the prizes for the costume contest,” Vigeant said with a kind smile. “We have a few different categories that you can enter for.” She leaned down, as if re-checking the contents of the baskets and continued, “We have scariest costume, a free one [where you can enter with any costume], funniest, couple, another couple, and most creative.” 

Alexis Ramee sporting her makeup, which won scariest costume. (Photo courtesy of Alexis Ramee)

    Nodding excitedly, the student grabbed an entry form and began to fill it out. 

    “The costume contest has been happening for awhile too,” said Vigeant. “Last year was the first year we did it where I was involved. But if I were going to guess, the costume contest started a few years after the dance did. Maybe once the dance did well for a couple years.” 

    The costume contest has since become an iconic part of the Halloween dance, with most students signing up as they enter the event, and the night ending with the announcement winners. “We close the contest at midnight, and they stop the music for the announcement at 12:15  to 12:30,” Vigeant says, “and if the winner isn’t here, they’ll get an email, and can come pick up their prizes next week.”

     Winner of scariest costume, junior visual arts major Alexis Ramee, left the dance before the winners were announced and woke up a week later to an email indicating that she won. “It made me really happy,” she said. “It made my morning.” 

    With a talent for special effects makeup and a preferred horror aesthetic, Ramee used liquid latex and polymorph plastic to create the illusion that her face had been split down a central seam and opening around her mouth. The look was meant to symbolize the importance of speaking a truth, even if it means tearing your mouth open to speak. “Generally I had pretty good reactions [to my costume], there were a couple of people that were slightly scared but I never, like, terrified anyone,” she said.

    Even the campus police officers monitoring the entrance were taken aback by Ramee’s makeup. “Oh, they loved it,” Ramee said. “Even Brian Ufford was like, ‘Good makeup!’” While she said that she hadn’t seen anyone with makeup to compete with hers, she enjoyed the comedy of seeing two students dressed as bananas accompanying another dressed as a gorilla, as well as two Waldo’s. “It was just a really fun night to get away from all the school work.”

Darby Murnane in Medusa paint. (Photo courtesy of Darby Murnane)

    As a dance full of partying college students naturally earns a reputation for crazy sights and stories, Szantyr and Vigeant reflect on what they’ve witnessed in years passed. “We don’t have any personal funny stories from the dances we’ve been around for,” Szantyr said, “but we were told on our first year of putting on the dance, that there would be a lot of people that were not fully aware of our surroundings,” she smiles a bit slyly and turns to look at Vigeant before continuing, “if you know what I mean.” 

    Vigeant shot back a smirk in response, as though she knew exactly what Szantyr meant, then added “Oh, also, one year an ACE member saw a girl beat up a pumpkin right outside of the dance.”