Even though it wasn’t the result he had hoped for, Bangor athletic administrator Steve Vanidestine was a happy man Saturday.
Although the Bangor softball team dropped a tough 1-0 decision to South Portland in the Class A state championship game in Standish, it was the first time any Rams softball team had made it that far. It capped an outstanding year at the school not just in girls athletics, but across the board on the playing fields, courts and rinks.
“Percentage-wise, we’ve had an outstanding year, we’ve gone deep into the playoffs in many cases, boys and girls,” Vanidestine said.
The accomplishments: Bangor’s football and competitive cheerleading squads earned regional titles, the boys swimming and diving squad won another state championship, both track and field squads claimed indoor and outdoor conference championships, the boys soccer team played for a regional crown while the girls were one game away from that step, and the field hockey team had its best season in nearly 30 years, reaching the Eastern Maine semifinal round.
So even though the school year officially ended with a state-championship loss, smiles trumped tears among Bangor’s softball team.
“It’s not disappointing. We had a great season, we had a great run. I love this team to death, win or lose,” Rams senior shortstop Mariah Cassum said after the game.
Vanidestine explained that Bangor’s athletic success is mainly attributed to not only strong performances in the classroom, but strong summer programs while several of Bangor’s baseball players compete in American Legion ball.
“I’m seeing right now [softball coach Don] Stanhope works very hard in the summer program, and I think if you look at all our programs, the summer aspect is very prominent,” Vanidestine said.
The seven seniors on the Bangor softball team, Cassum, Meagen Doucette, Sam Bedore, Jeri Cosgrove, Stephanie Comstock, Eliza Estabrook and Kate Freudenberger, have all been playing together since Little League, so an 18-2 season was a culmination of all those practices and games.
“This was a lot of years in the making, a lot of Little League games and great coaches along the way to get them to this point,” Stanhope said. “They should be proud, they represented Eastern Maine well.”
Another big reason for Bangor’s success is many of their athletes excel at different sports.
For example, Grace Maclean, who will be a sophomore, emerged into one of the state’s top weapons on the soccer pitch while also setting a state record in the high jump at the state indoor track championships. Meanwhile, football star and Fitzpatrick Trophy finalist Lonnie Hackett was also a key factor on the indoor track and baseball teams.
“Our philosophy has been kids playing 2-3 sports if they can,” Vanidestine said. “We do have kids who do that once in a while, we really like the kids being involved on several teams.”
Bangor’s fall sports teams certainly set the tone for the season that was to come, particularly with a breakthrough season for the field hockey squad, which won a playoff game for the first time since 1981, when the Rams won the state championship.
“We played Messalonskee [in the semifinals] and I was at the game and we could’ve won that game,” Vanidestine said. “The kids played well.”
Even though the softball team fell just short of its ultimate goal, the longtime legacy the seven seniors left on the program is something to build on.
“This group has set this kind of record for four straight years,” Stanhope said. “It’s been the winningest group we’ve ever had.”
The Rams also played for the 2008 regional softball title.
Ultimately, the way Vanidestine evaluates his athletes is that no matter the final score, the Rams represented the Queen City and their school with a great deal of pride.
“I wouldn’t trade what they accomplished, they’re great kids, they represented our school great,” he said.