For many, the Maine Principals’ Association’s decision to cancel the spring high school sports season was a punch in the gut.

Baseball and softball players might have seen it as an error, or tennis players, a fault. For lacrosse players, it may have felt like a trip to the penalty box or track athletes, being tripped up by a hurdle.

It is an unprecedented circumstance for most. A chain reaction put in motion by COVID-19, or coronavirus, which has infected people on a global scale and has suspended the operations of sports leagues, concerts and any and all large gatherings.

States have handled social distancing differently. Maine Governor Janet Mills has halted gatherings of non-household members, ordered non-essential businesses be closed and to limit the number of people in essential stores to certain numbers of people, depending on the square footage of the buildings.

The Maine Department of Education unveiled its recommendation on Tuesday, April 7 that schools close for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year (most districts have heeded this recommendation).

Two days later, on Thursday, April 9, the MPA followed suit.

The heartbreak for the loss of sports in particular, for many, has been devastating. Perhaps none more so than it has been for the hundreds of Maine high school seniors, who have, largely without notice, had their final chances to represent their schools ripped from them.

The fact that many have universally accepted that the canceling of the season was, by and large, the right thing to do, has not changed the fact it has been a difficult pill for many to swallow.

Including those who attend — and play sports for — Midcoast schools.

"Devasting" development

Vinalhaven senior baseball player Tim Farrelly called the decision “devastating,” and hit his family hard in particular “because spring baseball season has always been something we looked forward to throughout the year, ever since Little League.”

“When you become a senior it's your year,” he said. “You're ready to be a team leader and have the biggest impact on the success of your team. Unfortunately, many of us now will not be able to experience that.”

Oceanside senior lacrosse player Nicole Ladd added, “It’s disappointing, but we can’t be mad about it.”

“As upsetting as it was to hear that my final season of lacrosse was cancelled, it’s a sacrifice I am willing to make if it means lives will be saved,” she said. “This decision allows us to take part in this time of need, protecting the well-being of our community.”

“I understand why they decided to cancel spring sports but, that still doesn’t make it any easier to process that I will never get a chance to play in my senior season,” said Medomak Valley senior Jordan Powell. "Baseball is the one sport I look forward to playing every year and to have taken away from me is heartbreaking."

“When I heard the news I immediately broke down crying,” said Searsport senior softball pitcher Jenna Keach. “I think we all knew it was coming, we just didn’t want to hear it. It’s devastating that I’ll never get to put on a Searsport uniform again, but being able to work with and lead so many amazing girls on my team is something I’ll never forget.”

“When the MPA originally pushed spring sports back, I did my best to stay optimistic about the season,” said Mount View senior softball player Leah Bradstreet. “As things appeared to be worsening, as in our time away from school continued to extend, my optimism faded. I am disappointed and saddened that I am unable to play my last season of softball. My last season to compete with the team I've played alongside since middle school is gone. Although I do understand why I am not currently in a classroom or on the field, I feel gypped. I won't get to experience the senior night that I've seen so many seniors before me have. I won't get to say goodbye to my teammates and coaches the way I had envisioned. It almost feels unreal.”

Championships to defend

For some, the abundance of school pride was two-fold, as two area teams looked forward to the preparation to defend championships.

The Searsport baseball squad hoped to defend its state Class D baseball title, which, in the spring of 2019, the Vikings won for the fourth time in five seasons.

Viking senior Daegan Moody said “we all want to be out on that field defending that title,” but “this also affects every other senior on the team and every other player on the team.”

“Obviously it is very disappointing that the season has been cancelled, but we want to keep everyone safe and healthy,” he said. “I think the most disappointing part of this is the fact that I won't be able to play baseball with all of the guys again. Also playing for [coaches John] Frye, Melvin [Grant], R.J. [Robertson] and Otis [Kneeland] has been great. I want to thank them for all of the time they have put in and all of the opportunities they have given the team.”

And, for the Belfast boys tennis squad, as the Lions hoped to defend the first regional championship in school history, when they nabbed the Class B North title last spring.

Belfast senior Josh Chun is “still pretty bummed about it.” Not only that he will not get a chance to help the Lions repeat, but “I also hadn’t been able to play in the [MPA state] singles tournament for the past couple of years, so I was really looking forward to being able to compete this season.”

Chun is an accomplished pianist and normally has competitions that coincide with the MPA state singles tournament, but would have been able to participate in that tourney this season.

“I was really excited to start the season with the chance to do as well as we did last year,” said Chun, who occupied the first singles slot as a junior. “I felt like we had just as good of a chance if not a better one as some of us had worked hard since the last season to try and work towards that title. It's really unfortunate we won't be able to go for it this year but I hope the team can take it next year.”

Sinking feeling

For Camden Hills senior girls tennis player Chloe Fordyce, her “heart sank.” Tennis is her primary sport and she puts in considerable work in-season and in the offseason.

“I have played tennis since I was in elementary school and when I made varsity my freshman year I was beyond excited,” she said. “I was looking forward to lettering all four years of high school. Every year my playing improved and I gained more enjoyment from the sport.”

Instead, “I won’t laugh with my teammates during practice, I won’t get a rose at my last high school home match, and I won’t end my final year of high school playing the sport that I love.”

“Losing my last season is devastating, but I am happy I got to spend three years making friends both in my own school and friends in other schools around Maine.”

Medomak Valley senior softball player Kayla Donlin — the lone senior on this year’s Panther squad — said the decision “feels like a nightmare and we’re going to wake up and it will go back to normal."

“It’s heartbreaking that I can’t play my senior softball season,” she said. “This would have been my fourth year playing at varsity level for Medomak [Valley] and I was excited to be the oldest and the senior leader with a younger group of girls coming up seeing how we lost eight seniors last year and I’m the only senior returning.”