One of the better decisions made by the Maine Principals’ Association in the past several years will come to fruition this Saturday when the high school state soccer championships in Classes C and D kick off at the Dr. Gehrig T. Johnson Athletic Complex in Presque Isle.
The decision to implement a five-year rotation for the soccer sites is one that has more fairly balanced the traveling playing field for the state’s high schools.
This year, the Aroostook County schools will finally benefit.
“We wanted some equity. The Aroostook County teams travel south every year, so we thought it was appropriate to hold a couple of championships in Aroostook County,” MPA assistant executive director Mike Burnham said in a story by the BDN’s Larry Mahoney last November.
The Johnson Complex, which has artificial turf and lights, is an ideal facility to host the finals as is the host school, Presque Isle, and its athletic director Mark White, a strong administrator whose roots are just 13 miles north in Caribou.
The teams traveling north to the state finals will experience something the County schools have consistently encountered over the past few decades — trips ranging from 150 to 300 miles with three to 4 1/2 hours on a school bus.
Five of the eight North teams that could make the trip after Wednesday’s regional finals — Central of Corinth, Washington Academy of East Machias, Bangor Christian, Bucksport and Orono — are an average 159 miles from Presque Isle. The other three teams are from the County — Fort Fairfield, Madawaska and Ashland — and would have trips of 11, 59 and 23 miles, respectively.
The South regional final teams of Monmouth Academy, Waynflete of Portland, Richmond, Buckfield and Rangeley face an average trip of 265 miles. Monmouth, Waynflete and Richmond each have two teams in the finals.
Yes, those distances are long, but remember again that the County teams have always done so and those looking for a reminder only need to check in with the Fort Kent girls soccer team, which traveled 314 miles to Portland for last year’s state final and 320 miles to Scarborough in 2012.
Admittedly, I’m a bit objectively challenged when it comes to feeling a bit of sympathy for the long journeys teams will take to play games in Aroostook County because I have strong family connections to the County and was always amazed by friends who seemed to think the trip from Bangor to Presque Isle was longer than the trip from Presque Isle to Bangor.
The distances, of course, are the same. It just seems like it’s a bit more uphill to the County, especially for rookies making their first trips.