Editor’s Note: The following is the first of two articles highlighting some of the top sports stories from 2017. This article highlights the events from January to June.
Much like their high school brethren, the Central Aroostook Middle School cheering squad proved to be the cream of the crop, capturing the 2017 Aroostook League Middle School Cheering Competition championship. The Panthers bested squads from Houlton, Caribou and two from Presque Isle in securing the league crown. Presque Isle Middle School “White” finished second in the event, while Houlton was third.
The Houlton boys basketball team under the guidance of new coach Tim Brewer, enjoyed a resurgence on the basketball court as the Shires rattled off five consecutive victories to improve to 5-2 on the season.
The Aroostook Musterds awarded its 2016 Runner of the Year trophy to a first-timer in Bruce Clark of Houlton. Clark ran in all eight of the 2016 County Challenge Series races, winning his 50-59 age group in all but one of them. Additionally, nominees pointed to Clark as being “quiet, dedicated, a major participant, and always supportive of others. He exemplifies what a Musterd is and does.”
East Grand senior Sarah Stoddard joined the elite 1,000-point club Jan. 10, becoming just the 10th schoolgirl athlete to achieve this feat for the Vikings. Stoddard, a 17-year-old, 5-foot, 11-inch senior center for East Grand, reached her historic benchmark on a shot she has practiced countless times throughout her career — a free throw.
The championship hardware continued to mount for the Houlton High School cheering squad as the Shires won both the Aroostook County title and league championship.It marks the first time since 2012 that the Shires won the county and league titles. The team then placed second in the class C North competition in Bangor and went on to finish third in the state.
Southern Aroostook sophomore Kassidy Mathers, just six months removed from knee surgery to repair a partially torn anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee, returned to game action. In her first game back, she scored 10 points in limited action.
Cold temperatures did not deter a hearty group of 27 runners and walkers from participating in the 33rd annual Wild Katahdin Trust Snow Run in Houlton. Isaiah Brown was the top runner, finishing the 5K in 17 minutes, 20 seconds.
Tournament dreams came true for a number of local squads as eight of the 11 teams in the Houlton Pioneer Times’ coverage area qualified for postseason play. Both the boys’ and girls’ basketball teams for Houlton and Southern Aroostook, the East Grand and Katahdin girls, and the Hodgdon and Greater Houlton Christian Academy boys all earned spots in the postseason.
At the tourney, the Southern Aroostook boys and girls and Houlton girls all made it to the regional championship game. The SA girls fell 32-29 to Shead, while the SA boys were beaten 43-31 by Machias. The Houlton girls beat Foxcroft Academy 42-31 to advance to the state championship for the third straight year.
In the state Class B girls basketball championship, the Houlton Shiretowners lost a heart-breaking 35-31 decision to Gray-New Gloucester at the Augusta Civic Center, ending their quest for a third consecutive state title. The Shires ended their season with a 20-2 overall record.
Houlton High School junior guard Kolleen Bouchard attained another milestone in her remarkable career as she was named a Bangor Daily News’ Owen Osborne Most Valuable Player for the third straight year. She also was named to the BDN’s Class B all-tourney team along with teammate Rylee Warman. For Class D, Southern Aroostook sophomores Kassidy Mathers and Kylie Vining were selected. Receiving honorable mention was Kacy Daggett of Southern Aroostook.
It was a season to remember for the Houlton-Hodgdon-Southern Aroostook-Katahdin hockey squad as the Black Hawks compiled a 9-8-1 regular season record and earned a playoff appearance for the first time in six years. As the No. 5 seed, the Black Hawks faced No. 4 Hampden Academy, falling 3-0 in Class B North playoff.
The Harlem Superstars comedy basketball team returned to the region for shows in Houlton and Stacyville. The Harlem Superstars are a group of talented basketball players whose main mission is to entertain kids and their families through “show time” basketball. The shows are filled with fan participation and plenty of laughs. At Houlton Middle-High School, more than 700 people turned out for a night of slam dunks, one-liners and comedic antics with $520 raised for the senior class.
Efforts to bring youth lacrosse to the greater Houlton area received a huge boost thanks to the coach of the New England Patriots football team. On March 15, the Bill Belichick Foundation awarded a grant for 24 sets of player equipment, worth more than $7,000, to the Northern Maine Lacrosse Club. The equipment included sticks, helmets, shoulder pads, elbow pads and gloves.
The Northern Maine Freeze, a travel basketball team comprised of fifth-graders from Houlton, Bangor and Old Town, captured the New England Championship, earning a spot at the national tournament in Boston. Local players included Gabby Gentle, Kaitlyn Kenney and Amelia Callnan of Houlton.
For the third time in her illustrious career, Houlton junior Kolleen Bouchard has been named to the Bangor Daily News All-Maine Schoolgirl Basketball Team. Bouchard led Houlton to its third straight regional championship.
Josh Malone, a student at Hodgdon High School, competed with the Maine Moose Junior hockey team, helping the squad win its second National Junior Championship in Michigan. Based out of the Augusta-Hallowell area, the Maine Moose hockey squad won the Tier II under 18 national championship, beating the New Hampshire Avalanche 3-2 in Lansing, Michigan. Malone was also a member of the Houlton-Hodgdon-Southern Aroostook-Katahdin Black Hawks high school hockey team this past winter.
Phil Faulkner was one of three Aroostook County men named as new inductees to the Maine Sports Legends Hall of Honors. Faulkner played several sports during his high school career and went on to become an educator, coach and athletic director, beginning at Island Falls High School.
Christopher Young, a longtime educator and athletic administrator for the East Grand Community School, tendered his resignation as grade 7-12 social studies teacher, middle-high school athletic administrator/assistant principal and girls varsity soccer coach. He had served as the athletic administrator since 2005 and as soccer coach since 2009.
Overcast weather provided a chillier-than-usual setting for the 2017 Meduxnekeag River Canoe Race. A large contingent of paddlers came out for this year’s race. The high water levels were a stark contrast to last year’s race, when many boaters were scraping the rocky riverbed. A total of 126 paddlers manned 80 vessels for the race.
Baseball coaches had mixed reviews on new pitching rules that were instituted by the Maine Principals’ Association. In the past, if a pitcher tossed a certain number of innings, he was required to sit out a certain number of days before taking the mound again. Under the new rule, a player who threw betwee
n one and 20 pitches was not required to sit out any days for rest. Those that threw 21-39 pitches had to refrain from pitching for one day; those throwing 40-65 pitches had to have two days of rest; those tossing 66-96 pitches had to take three days off; and those delivering 96 or more pitches (with a maximum of 110 pitches) had to wait four days before throwing to batters again.
It was a spring sports season to cherish as all five local softball squads — as well as all five baseball teams — qualified for postseason play for the first time in many years. The Southern Aroostook softball team advanced the farthest, making it to the Class D north championships. The Warriors fell 3-0 to Penobscot Valley in the title game.
Houlton track athlete Tim Glatter captured the State Class C javelin title at Foxcroft Academy with a throw of 143-feet, 5-inches. He became the first track athlete to win a state championship for Houlton.
Young racers between the ages of 8 and 18 converged on Derby Hill in Houlton for the 22nd annual Northern Maine Soap Box Derby racing event. Emily Shaw, 14, was crowned the super stock champ, while Matthew Conley, 12, was named the stock champion. Shaw is the daughter of Richard and Julie Shaw of Littleton. Conley is the son of Brent and Jennifer Conley of Smyrna Mills.
See part 2 here.