The high school winter sports seasons officially are under way with a handful of new varsity coaches on the basketball court, ski slope, cheer floor and pool deck at Belfast, Searsport, Camden Hills of Rockport, Mount View of Thonrdike, Oceanside of Rockland, Medomak Valley of Waldoboro, North Haven and Vinalhaven.

Belfast has three new coaches in Jason Hughes (boys basketball), Elmer Deans (girls basketball) and Betsy Bradley (girls swimming), while Dusty Nadeau leads boys basketball at Searsport, Déja Doughty girls basketball at Vinalhaven, Brandon Hurd girls basketball at Mount View, Barry King Alpine ski at Camden Hills, Maddie Hallowell girls basketball at North Haven and Jacqueline Weaver cheer at Oceanside.

Additionally, Leeann Benner also is co-coach, with veteran coach Heather Simmons, for Medomak Valley cheer.

The following is a summary of the area’s new high school varsity coaches (attempts to reach Bradley were unsuccessful):

Belfast boys basketball

The Lions have a new varsity coach this season in 30-year-old Jason Hughes. Hughes, a 2010 Mount View High School graduate, replaces Carroll Harris, who guided the Lions one season and a 3-16 record.

“When I tell you this is a dream come true, it’s nothing short of it,” Hughes said. “This is something I’ve been wanting to do for a very long time. I can’t even put into words how ready I am for the season to get going.”

Jason Hughes

Hughes attended BAHS three years before transferring to Mount View as a senior. He played football and basketball at the schools and went on to play three years of basketball at Central Maine Community College in Auburn under coach Dave Gagne, who “was a very big mentor to me.”

“I’m on the phone with him quite regularly and able to bounce ideas off him,” said Hughes of Gagne. “He actually came down and ran a basketball clinic for my boys this summer.”

Hughes also played briefly for the Midcoast Sternmen of Rockland in the Professional Basketball Association (PBA) last year.

“I know I was probably one of the least talented, but I was that guy that was diving on the floor for every possession, high-fiving guys that were blocking me and making sure guys were getting high-fives as they were getting drinks,” he said. “That team-first, program-first attitude is what made me acceptable for that team. And that kind of attitude is going to be what gets Belfast on the map.”

Hughes coached at the third- and fourth-grade level in Waldo County briefly while he attended CMCC and also has assisted with the Belfast girls basketball team on a few occasions under former coaches Stan Sturgis and Jojo Oliphant.

“He really got my foot in the door,” said Hughes of Sturgis. “That was a lot of fun. But Jojo giving me the opportunity this year was the big piece to me getting the varsity coaching job.”

The 30-year-old Hughes, who lives in Brooks with his dog, Fenway, said he “wants to be as hands-on as I possibly can.”

“I really want to try my hardest to get this program going in the right direction,” he said. “Belfast [Area] High School hasn’t really been known for its basketball team, maybe ever, and we’re really trying to change that culture in the way we’re viewed not just by everyone else, but in the community.”

Belfast girls basketball

The Lions have a new coach in 49-year-old Elmer Deans. Deans replaces Jojo Oliphant, who led the Lions two seasons with a 7-20 record.

Deans said he is “very excited” to be tabbed as the team’s coach.

Elmer Deans

“I applied for the job [two years ago] when Jojo got the position,” he said. “And I was very happy for him. I’ve known Jojo for a while and I’ve gotten to know him pretty well over the last year coaching with him. It was unfortunate he wasn’t able to continue, but I’m ready to take it on.”

Deans, whose daughter, Madison, is on the team, said he has worked with the core group of players on the team on and off since first grade, when his daughter’s team needed a volunteer coach.

“I really fell in love with it right off the bat,” he said. “Did a ton of research and worked with pretty much that same group of girls for several years in the youth levels. And then they needed coaches at the middle school levels starting in, I think, 2018 and did that for three years.”

He also was a broadcaster for many of the boys and girls varsity games during the “COVID-19 season” of 2020-21 before being an assistant to Oliphant last year and also has coached the school’s junior varsity baseball team two years.

Deans ran the summer basketball program along with new assistant and jayvee coach Justice Barrows and said “these girls have put in a lot of work.”

“I think this group of girls has played more basketball than a lot of girls have at Belfast in several years. So they’re excited,” Deans said.

Deans is a 1991 Searsport District High School graduate, where he played basketball and baseball for the Vikings. He resides in Morrill with his wife, Amanda.

Searsport boys basketball

The Vikings have a new coach in 44-year-old Dusty Nadeau. Nadeau replaces Troy Alley, who guided the Vikings two seasons with a 10-22 record.

Originally from Fort Kent, Nadeau is a 1996 SDHS graduate, where he played soccer, basketball and baseball for the Vikings.

Dustin Nadeau

“As a Searsport graduate it’s really an honor of course, and to work with these young men every day is a real gift,” he said. “They’ve got big goals as a team and I look forward to supporting them any way I can out there.”

Nadeau attended Plymouth State University in New Hampshire, where he pursued a degree in outdoor recreational business management. He also played intramural rugby during his time at PSU.

“This is a really scrappy bunch,” he said. “My expectation is that we’re going to be competitive in every game for four quarters and work every day to keep getting better incrementally in all other aspects all over the floor. The other coaches and I are really focused on building a program that helps to set these young men up for long-term success both on and off the court.”

Nadeau lives in Searsport with his wife, Heather, and two children, Lily and Bay. He is employed at Athena Health.

Vinalhaven girls basketball

Only six years ago, Déja Doughty helped lead the island girls basketball team to its first state championship on the floor. Now, she will aim to deliver another on the sideline as the Vikings’ new varsity basketball coach.

Doughty will take over for former coach Sandy Nelson, who led the Vikings to a state Class D title, two regional championships and compiled a 72-62 record over eight years as coach.

Déja Doughty

Between the Vikings’ two regional championship seasons (and 2016-17 state title), the islanders also ripped off a 33-game win streak.

“It’s definitely really surreal,” said the 22-year-old Doughty. “It’s strange thinking six years ago I was playing on the team and now I’m the one coaching them. I’m really exited.”

Doughty was Nelson’s assistant coach last season. Prior to that, Doughty had been attending the University of Maine in Orono, but transitioned to online classes at Eastern Oregon University once the pandemic began.

“Sandy has been trying to get me to do it with her since I graduated,” said Doughty. “And since I was home last year, I told her I’d help her and be her assistant. She didn’t have anybody because Sam Bickford got done. But it was really cool seeing Sandy coach from her perspective. I had only really seen her coaching as my own coach.”

“Déja was such a great player,” said Nelson. “One of her strongest assets was how well she saw the court. I know she will do a great job as coach and I am elated for her.”

Interestingly enough, Doughty’s brother, Josh Miller, is the island’s varsity boys basketball coach.

“I’m pretty excited to get to coach alongside him,” Doughty said. “And my assistant coach is going to be his wife, Megan. So I’m pretty excited about that too. He’s 14 years older than me, so I’ve always really looked up to him. He’s part of the reason I’ve always been interested in sports and coaching now.”

Doughty hopes to be a physical education teacher or perhaps an athletic director once she earns her bachelor’s degree. Until then, she will guide the Vikings and help them  — on and off the floor.

“We have a lot of work to do, but just getting to have the relationship with the girls was so fun last year,” she said. “I’m excited to continue to help them grow as individuals and players.”

Camden Hills Alpine ski

The Windjammer Alpine ski team has a “new face” in a familiar place as Barry King, who guided the team a few years starting in the 2017-18 campaign, has returned to coach the team.

A 1980 graduate of Hyde School in Bath, where he played football and lacrosse — in addition to Alpine and Nordic skiing — the 60-year-old King is “excited to be with the athletes” on the slopes for another season.

Barry King

“I am inspired watching them stomp into the bindings on their skis at the top of a course with nothing more than a thin ‘speed suit,’ a helmet, finely-tuned equipment, and most importantly, the heart and soul they have to summon when it is time to hurl themselves out of the start,” he said. “Every gate is where skill and hard work intersect.”

The team began “dry training” on Monday, Nov. 28 at CHRHS. The veteran coach said “Squats, lunges, core exercises, balance drills, and cardio are all on the menu for the four weeks leading up to the school break” as they prepare to begin the regular season.

King said the boys team has a few racers that could vie for top-15 in the conference, while the girls team has individuals that “could well finish in the top 10 in the conference, perhaps in the state.”

“In Alpine skiing the top-four finishers score for the team,” he said. “We don’t need for anyone to finish first per se. But, if four of our women finish in the top 10, that would be hard to beat.”

He added he is “blessed to be working with high school veteran coaches Michele Metzler and Chris Rogers, both of which have also spent time as head coaches at CHRHS in recent years.

“Our team approach to coaching allows us to effectively balance our skill sets, coaching styles [and] the variety of challenges presented by the 20+ athletes,” King said.

Oceanside cheer

The Mariners have a new coach in Jacqueline Weaver. Weaver replaces Stefani Gundel, who guided the team the past few seasons.

Weaver graduated from North Haven High School in North Haven, Conn. and participated in cheering, indoor track, outdoor track and lacrosse.

Jacqueline Weaver

From there, she moved onto the University of Maine in Orono, where she graduated with degrees in English and Mathematics with a concentration in creative writing.

Oceanside had not had a competitive cheer program since 2014 before making a brief comeback to the competition scene in 2020.

“I know the program has died down the past couple years and I hope to change this,” she said. “As a teacher at Oceanside, I can see that the students are in desperate need of school spirit and I hope that the new and improved cheerleading team is exactly what they need. I am even considering having cheerleading a fall sport as well to cheer on the football games. I hope the students are just as excited as I am and I am hoping for a great season.”

After the Mariners being out of competition the last two years, Weaver, also a math teacher at OHS, hopes Oceanside is back on the mats in competitive fashion as soon as possible.

“The few students I have discussed this with are very excited about this possibility and I hope that if not this season, the next season we will be able to compete,” she said. “However, I will do everything I can this season to be able to compete Since a lot of the students are new to cheerleading, we will start with the basics and see where it takes us.”

Mount View girls basketball

The Mustangs will have a new coach on the sidelines — instead of the dugout — in Brandon Hurd of Brooks.

Brandon Hurd

Brooks, who also is the Mount View varsity baseball coach, replaces Mark Cooper, who guided the Mustangs five seasons and a 24-62 record.

“I’m excited for the chance from boys jayvee [last four seasons] now to girls varsity,” said the 40-year-old Hurd. “Personally I feel motivated and enthusiastic about what’s to come in the program now and the years to come.”

Hurd is a 2000 graduate of Belfast Area High School, where he played football, basketball and baseball for the Lions. He has coached at several age levels locally in various sports, most prominently baseball.

And his expectations, are simple: “To win games.”

“Starts with expanding our numbers which looks like double from last year,” he said. “Fine-tuning our fundamentals and expanding our overall basketball knowledge [will be key].”

Brandon’s son, Noah, is a standout three-sport athlete for the Mustangs.

Medomak Valley cheer

Benner joins sister, Simmons, as co-varsity coach on a team fresh off its first state Class B championship.

The 38-year-old Benner is a 2002 Sumner of Sullivan graduate, where she cheered for the Tigers. She later graduated from Husson University in Bangor in 2006 with a bachelor’s degree in clinical psychology and later received her master’s degree in counselor education in 2013 from the University of Maine in Orono.

Leeann Benner

Benner has been the coach at Medomak Middle School since 2009, where she has won a boatload of Busline League championships, before joining her sister to guide the Panthers.

“I have learned everything about cheerleading from my sister beginning from a young age to cheering together at Medomak during my freshman year and her senior year, to the start of my coaching career,” said Benner, who also is a guidance counselor in Regional School Unit 40. “Coaching high school is intimidating as far as the skill level these athletes are at, but I know the kids and I have coached most of them at MMS. Heather is and will always be my mentor. We work well because we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses on every level. That’s the bonus about being siblings.”

North Haven girls basketball

The Hawks have a new coach on the bench in Maddie Hallowell, a 2015 North Haven Community School graduate and former hoop standout on the island.

Hallowell replaces Laura MacDonald, who will remain as the athletic director at NHCS.

“I’m incredibly excited to coach this team,” she said. “I think that I’m starting with a really great team. There are older kids that have been playing for a while, but also a few students that haven’t played before. So I get some of the experienced players and some with no experience that I get to maybe mold a little bit more. I’m just so happy to have this opportunity.”

Maddie Hallowell

Hallowell graduated from Bates College in Lewiston in 2020 where she was an interdisciplinary major and currently is the co-coordinator of the project’s building on North Haven, located at NHCS.

“It’s basically the vocational arts building,” she said. “And we’re running it as a modular space. We have a boat-building class, robotics with elementary kids. I teach the robotics class.”

Hallowell never fancied herself a coach. Since college she would return and play against high school players in practices and more or less “be a body for them to play against,” but her focus sharpened this summer when her niece approached her about helping her get ready to play on the team this winter.

“We started going to the gym together and playing basketball because she had mentioned she was going to want to start playing,” she said. “And so I agreed to start taking her to the gym. And when we were there and I was able to explain things to her, it sort of clicked in my head that maybe I’d be able to explain it to a larger group.”

“It never occurred to me that I had enough knowledge. I was an OK basketball player, pretty good for the islands, but not a standout state player. So it never occurred to me that I would be able to teach the game. Seeing my words and my suggestions improve her play made it seem that I could potentially coach other kids.”

Then, when MacDonald made the decision to step away for at least a year to focus on family, the door suddenly opened for Hallowell to walk through.

“I’m very lucky,” she said. “I know a lot of people my age want an opportunity like this and I was able to walk into this. Laura did a great job with them and I’m excited to just keep moving forward.”