BANGOR — Ah, the rituals of spring in Maine.
After hundreds of young runners, jumpers and throwers completed a lap around Bangor High School’s parking lot, they looked at track and field coach Joe Quinn, wondering what to do next.
“Just do some quick stretches and agilities out there,” Quinn instructed.
That can only mean one thing: The spring sports season has officially started, as the state’s track and field, baseball, softball and tennis teams opened preseason practices Monday afternoon.
Teams were allowed to bring in five pitchers and catchers for workouts last week.
Games, matches and meets can get under way on April 17.
With recent weeks of warm weather and a couple days of rain, Cameron Stadium’s track is clear, and the Rams are itching to get on it.
And why not, as the team is training in the school’s hallways and parking lots the first couple days.
“They hate it up here, we’re outside in parking lots, it’s much better at the track we can get a lot more done,” said Quinn, whose teams swept the PVC championship meets last spring for the fourth consecutive year.
With a talented nucleus and coming off a strong finish to the indoor season — the Bangor girls were fifth at the Class A state championships — the Rams should contend for a fifth straight conference championship.
Not only does the team boast some of the state’s top athletes in Dee Wilbur, Brittney Chapman, Jen Tsang and Cote Theriault, but the Rams will field some talented harriers who either played basketball or competed in swimming over the course of the winter.
And oh, by the way, the conference title meet is on Bangor’s home track this spring.
“We basically add to those kids, we’ve got a lot of kids that did basketball and swimming and that’s going to add to our depth,” said Quinn, who has around 130 prospective athletes out for the team.
Since Wilbur was a force in the 400 during the winter — giving Bangor a sound 1-2 arsenal along with Chapman — that’ll only add to Quinn’s disposal of weapons.
”Yeah she’s all excited about that, her and Brittney are both excited, they’ve got some pretty ambitious goals,” he said.
Even though most veteran athletes tend to know what events they will be doing, Bangor will be keeping things somewhat simple the first couple weeks.
“The first week we’re not going to go too hard, just see what kind of condition they’re in,” Quinn said.
Bangor opens its season April 24 at Hampden.
Brew-ing up a title defense
They were the hottest team in the state last spring and the reward was a state championship.
Everything was timely for the Brewer softball team a year ago, pitching, defense, hitting, you name it… and the Witches won their last 14 games to annex the program’s first state title with a 4-3 win over Biddeford.
There’s plenty of reason to believe coach Skip Estes’ club will be a legitimate Eastern Class A contender this year, along with Bangor and Skowhegan, as the Witches welcome back a sound group of players, including junior ace Melanie Judkins.
Along with Judkins, Brewer also retains senior catcher and cleanup hitter Leah Jackson and classmates Allison DeFilipp at third base, Emily Fraser in the outfield and Maria Liberatore.
The enthusiasm is certainly ringing throughout preseason camp.
“I’ve been excited since the season got over last year,” said Judkins, who recorded eight strikeouts in the state championship game.
Even though the confidence is there, Brewer has to make sure that trumps cockiness with a plethora of contenders aiming for the Witches’ Class A pedestal.
“I definitely think so, we just need to have confidence and not get cocky about it,” Judkins said.
Brewer should benefit from a tough preseason slate which includes matchups with Eastern B regional finalist Winslow, Class A contenders Cony of Augusta and Thornton Academy in Saco, and that team from Biddeford the Witches knocked off last June.
“I think its going to be good for us, I think it’ll be good to play against harder teams,” Judkins said.
Even though she also participates in soccer and basketball for Brewer, its fairly clear that softball is Judkins’ love.
“I pitch all year round, I pitch in Orrington once a week,” she said.
Brewer opened its preseason practices in the gym, but Estes noted that his club will get outside as soon as it can, as Coffin Field is 100 percent snow-free.