MDI’s Sam Schleif swims the butterfly during a 2019 practice in Bar Harbor. The MDI swim team began practices Monday at the MDI YMCA. ISLANDER FILE PHOTO

MDI begins winter sports; DI-S to begin Thursday

Members of the Mount Desert Island boys’ basketball team dribble during the second day of skills and conditioning workouts Dec. 15 in Bar Harbor. MDI’s “white” pod participated in practices Tuesday. PHOTO COURTESY OF JUSTIN NORWOOD

BAR HARBOR — After months of uncertainty, the winter sports season is underway at Mount Desert Island High School.

Mount Desert Island became the third high school in the area to begin winter sports when it held its first day of skills and conditioning exercises Monday. The first day of practices marked the end to a long offseason that included two delays and questions as to whether a season could go forward at all.

MDI held its first basketball and swim practice Monday and its first cheer practice Tuesday. Teams participated in separate pods with “green” and “white” groups conducting approved activities at various times and dates throughout the week.

MDI delayed the start of practices for two other sports, wrestling and indoor track, until students return from winter break. Wrestling, the lone “high-risk” sport under the state’s community sports guidelines, must gain further approval before traditional practices and competitions can begin next month, and indoor track faces its own obstacles with facilities at the University of Maine and Bates College unavailable.

“There is still a lot of uncertainty about what the competition season will even look like,” said Aaron Long, head coach of the MDI indoor track team. “I’ve seen drafts but nothing finalized just yet. From what I’ve seen as far as competition, schedule and timelines, waiting until January is OK with me. I think ultimately it will prove beneficial for us to have waited until January.”

MDI’s Olivia Gray (back) and Elizabeth Jones defend against Leah Carroll during a 2019 high school basketball practice in Bar Harbor. MDI began basketball practices with its “green” pod Monday.

With MDI beginning practices Monday and Deer Isle-Stonington set to hold its first practices today, Dec. 17, the majority of Hancock County high schools will have begun the winter sports season as of this evening. Ellsworth and Bucksport held their first practices last Monday, the earliest start date permitted under Maine Principals’ Association and state guidelines.

Only one Hancock County high school, George Stevens Academy, has yet to make a final decision on the winter sports season. GSA Athletic Director Larry Gray said last week that the school has delayed a decision until at least Jan. 4.

In eastern Hancock County, Sumner Memorial High School will not participate in winter sports this year after the Regional School Unit 24 Board of Directors voted earlier this month to cancel the season. The school district discussed winter sports again during a Zoom meeting held Tuesday, though no further action was taken on the matter.

Teams are limited to skill-based drills and physically distanced activities until Jan. 4, on which date they may begin more formal team practices and intra-squad scrimmages. Competitions against other teams are on hold until at least Jan. 11.

Should those competitions take place later this winter, they will happen in an environment that features mask requirements during competition, virtual swim and cheer meets and no state championships for all sports except cheer. MDI Athletic Director Bunky Dow emphasized that the current focus remains on the more immediate future.

“[We’re] just taking it one day at a time,” Dow told the Islander. “As far as any games or events, no decision has been made at this time. If we get to that point, we are hoping to compete, but the conditions need to be favorable for everyone.”

Dow said MDI will have more information on the winter season after the winter break. The Islander will provide that information once it has been made available.

Mike Mandell

Mike Mandell

Mike Mandell is the sports editor at The Ellsworth American and Mount Desert Islander. He began working for The American in August 2016. You can reach him via email at [email protected]

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