Bangor High School catcher Isaac Bushway and Hampden Academy center fielder Sam Economy were ready to seek a measure of atonement in 2020.
Mackenzie Lambert of Bangor wanted an opportunity to earn a Class A outdoor track state championship to accompany the Rams’ indoor title. Brewer High shortstop Kenzie Dore sought a third straight softball state crown and Diana Harriman of John Bapst in Bangor was excited to reap the dividends of her hard work on the tennis court.
Instead, all five seniors were denied those opportunities when the COVID-19 pandemic forced schools to implement remote learning and canceled the spring sports season.
Though frustrating, the experience has given them a greater appreciation for the value of competing in high school sports.
The athletes are disappointed for a variety of reasons, but four of them will be extending their careers in college and Harriman intends to play intramural tennis or join a tennis club at the University of Maine.
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Bushway, Dore and Lambert plan to play sports at NCAA Division III Husson University in Bangor. Lambert intends to play soccer and run track. Economy will be playing baseball at Clarion University, a Division II school in Pennsylvania.
“I’m lucky to have the opportunity to play at the next level. I feel really bad for the seniors who aren’t going to play in college. This was their last chance to play,” Economy said.
Hampden Academy was hoping to make a deep playoff run in Class A North baseball after earning the No. 2 seed before getting upset by No. 7 Messalonskee of Oakland in the 2019 quarterfinals.
“I never would have wanted my last season [of competitive sports] to end that way. It would be a shock,” Lambert said.
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Bushway was the starting catcher for the Rams, who uncharacteristically went 4-12 last year and missed the Class A North playoffs after winning five consecutive state A championships.
“I missed it a lot,” Bushway said.
“Our team was pretty close-knit and I missed the camaraderie. Walking into the dugout and having a laugh is what I missed the most,” he added.
Dore said she enjoyed hanging out with her teammates and having fun all the time.
“The biggest thing I missed was the family aspect of it and being able to play,” said Dore, who also liked interacting with coaches and learning from them.
Economy loved playing baseball and being part of a team. He still hasn’t seen some of his teammates this spring due to the coronavirus restrictions.
“It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to deal with,” Economy said.
Lambert said not being able to see her friends made for a boring final spring of high school.
Harriman started playing tennis as a freshman at John Bapst and the Glenburn native had made strides to the point where she would have been a regular in the lineup this year.
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“I was very, very disappointed,” said Harriman, who made her varsity debut last season and used that as extra motivation.
“That’s when I really started becoming more dedicated and serious about tennis,” she said. “I attended weekly two-hour tennis sessions this winter. I worked really, really hard.”
The athletes communicated with their friends and teammates via phone and social media during the school shutdowns.
Lambert had hoped to help Bangor claim the outdoor track title. Indoors, she finished fifth in the 400 meters and long jump and her 4×200 relay team took third.
“It was going to be between us and two or three other teams. It was going to be a really good meet,” she said.
All five seniors continued to work out on their own in some fashion despite the lack of organized team activities.
“I did a lot of running. I struggled to find a place to lift,” Bushway said.
“I would go for runs a few times a week and I did some lifting. We have some weights at home,” Lambert said.
Economy purchased a basement full of weights and other workout equipment and took advantage of it.
Dore also tried to stay in shape, but noted that one positive development from the experience was being able to have a valuable break both physically and mentally.
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The three-sport athlete had surgeries on her left knee her freshman and sophomore seasons.
“I was able to work out and get my whole body stronger,” she said.
Economy said he was able to focus on himself and develop his game for the college level.
Harriman had the chance to do some reading for the first time in a while.
The remote learning aspect of the unforgettable spring of 2020 also provided some new perspective for the seniors.
“I was kind of surprised. I didn’t really like school but I found that I missed it. And I missed my teachers,” Lambert said.
“It was difficult at first,” Harriman said. “I definitely like learning face to face. I had a very good school routine. I had to adapt.”
“I’m one of those people who needs structure or I go insane,” Dore admitted.
Economy said he was able to focus more on his schoolwork without baseball and he was able to achieve high honors.
Dore said not playing softball intensified her love for the sport and that knowing she has four more years of softball at Husson helped her get through the ordeal.
Ultimately, the lost season provided all of the athletes with a greater appreciation for the value of sports in their lives.
“I’ve realized baseball is much more than a game. It’s something I really need in my life,” Bushway said.