It has been a challenging six months for Bangor High School seniors James Neel and Jonny Lyon and Brewer High senior Mia Cattan.
All three play a spring sport that was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic and then learned last Thursday that their fall sport has been delayed at least until the spring.
That means the trio has endured two full seasons without the opportunity to compete in a sport they love.
Neel plays baseball and football for the Rams, while Lyon is a lacrosse and football player. Cattan plays softball and volleyball for the Witches.
Football and volleyball, which is played indoors, were deemed higher-risk sports during the pandemic, and pushed to the spring.
The athletes are taking things in stride and are hoping they will have a busy second semester during which they will be able to play two sports.
Some athletic administrators have said they would like to stagger the sports in the second semester so the athletes won’t have to choose between one sport or another.
A popular scenario would have football and volleyball being offered first followed by baseball and softball, which likely would be played from late spring well into the summer.
“It has been a roller coaster,” Neel said. “During the summer, we had high hopes there would be a football season [in the fall]. We were very disappointed.”
Neel, who plays tight end and running back on the football team and is a middle infielder for the baseball team, hopes the spring football option will become a reality.
Cattan, who plays first base on the softball team and is an outside hitter in volleyball, is trying to adjust to the lack of competition.
From left: Michael Randall of Deering High School is wrapped up by Bangor’s James Neel (9) and Gabe Higgins (32) during a football game in Bangor in 2018; Members of the Brewer High School softball team including Kenzie Dore (36) and Mia Cattan (left), along with Libby Hewes and Jordan Goodrich (both obscured) celebrate a victory in 2019. Credit: BDN file photo
“I’m used to playing back-to-back sports [winter and spring] and now there is a dry spell,” Cattan said.
She admits being upset when the MPA announced it was moving volleyball to the spring but understands the safety rationale.
“You can’t social distance on the court,” Cattan said. “You’re running all over the place.”
Lyon, a football running back and a lacrosse midfielder, said he was frustrated when the decision to postpone was announced.
“I believe we could have done it [played football safely],” Lyon said.
“But it isn’t happening so I’ve got to put it on the back burner and keep going,” he said. “I’ve got to keep grinding.”
Brewer High athletes have been involved in voluntary workouts during the summer with strict guidelines set forth by the MPA. Like most schools, Bangor hasn’t held any organized workouts.
The Bangor School Committee is expected Thursday to vote on whether to allow their soccer, field hockey, cross country and golf teams to compete this fall.
Neel said he and several of his teammates worked out on their own or in small groups over the summer. Lyon did a lot of rollerblading because he is contemplating trying out for the ice hockey team this winter.
Lyon plans to attend a lacrosse camp in Florida in a few weeks and Cattan played summer softball for the Outlaws club team.
All said being back at school has been beneficial.
“We’re trying to stay as positive as we can,” Neel said. “Everyone is in the same boat. We’re just focusing on what we can do to stay tight as a team during this and make sure no one feels they are on their own.”
The Brewer volleyball team is able to do skills training in small groups but they have to do it outside, which is better than nothing.
“It will help us get familiar with each other,” Cattan said.
Lyon and Neel want to see Bangor football be allowed to work out together and play organized, 7-player flag football.
“It would be great to be out there with the guys again,” Lyon said. “It would obviously be more fun with pads but I miss the coaches and my teammates. We’re a family.”
If the MPA can find a workable plan for the second semester, the trio could be busy while competing in back-to-back sports seasons (winter and spring). However, the winter season remains in doubt as basketball and hockey are played indoors.
“It wouldn’t be much of an issue,” Cattan said. “I’m a relatively well-rounded person and I always try to fill up my schedule as much as I can.”
Lyon and Neel just want the chance to play.
“I’m pretty locked in on getting out there and being with my friends,” Lyon said.
Neel said the prospect of playing baseball in the late spring and summer when the weather is nice is enticing.
“It will be a summer atmosphere like you have in [American] Legion ball. It will be fun,” Neel said.
In spite of their optimism, uncertainty remains.
“I’m going to remain positive,” Cattan said. “The worst part is not knowing if you’re going to play again.”