Freeport teams eagerly anticipate installation of new facilities

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FREEPORT – It’s been a long time coming – a detailed history provided by RSU5 Athletic Director Craig Sickels reaches all the way back to 1998 – but Freeport will finally be getting a track and turf field.

Sickels, and the battalion of coaches who work beneath him, are excited with the results of last Tuesday, Jan. 10’s, referendum, and with the possibilities now opening up before them.

“The new facility will have a positive effect that will be felt throughout the entire RSU,” Sickels said. “Certainly having a turf field will provide benefits to all of our programs that our one substandard grass field could not. Obviously, the track and field team will reap huge benefits. I anticipate the level of track and field participation will increase. It’s one thing to board a bus to Bowdoin every day for practice, quite another thing to have the facility in your back yard.”

Outdoor track coach Matt Greear elaborated on his squad’s sharpened prospects.

“I think that the track team will eventually compete for team titles,” Greear said. “Not having a track really hurt the overall team because most students never had an opportunity to do track and field as youngsters…Some events, [like] jumps, throws and hurdles, take a great deal of time to gain proficiency in. It’s difficult for students to just pick these things up in high school when other schools have programs for youth.”

“This turf field is huge for our program,” said boys’ lacrosse coach Geoff Arris, a Freeport alum. “In at least seven of my nine seasons as head coach, we were still practicing inside the tiny gym until after April vacation. Typically, we would have one or two games before we were even outside on a field. We’ve opened our season with Falmouth the past two seasons. We were still practicing indoors. Going against one of the toughest teams in the state with our players not having been on a field is not ideal. Many of them are not spatially aware.”

“Super excited about the turf and track,” said Marcia Wood, coach of both the field hockey and girls lacrosse teams. “In regards to lacrosse, being able to get out onto a full field early is key. There is only so much you can do in a gym with 30-plus girls. It’s just going to take our game to the next level.”

Wood went on to discuss the upsides for the field hockey team.

“Field hockey is a completely different sport on turf,” she said. “Grass fields can be so unpredictable; it will be nice to change to a more controlled game. Also, the field hockey field wasn’t great at [draining], so a day of rain could take two or three days to dry. Knowing that you are going to play rain or shine helps with game mentality. Night games could also bring more fans out.”

Girls’ soccer coach Elayna Girardin pointed to the flexibility offered by the availability of multiple surfaces.

“If we are going to play a team with turf, we can practice on our turf,” she said. “If it’s a team with grass, we can work on grass. Turf and grass are hugely different.

“And, I can finally have a playoff game at home and not have to worry if our field is playable or not. This year, we played our game at NYA, other years we have had play at Durham. We work so hard to get homefield advantage, to not take advantage of it has been difficult.”

But Girardin also weighed in on the benefits of the facilities to the Tri-Town area at large.

“Independent of the team, I think the biggest thing is that it provides an opportunity to build our sense of community,” she said. “So many students and families go to basketball games because the games can be later in the evening; now we can have that year-round.”

Sickels echoed Girardin’s remarks on community-building.

“Athletics is a special medium that has the power to bring people from all walks of life together for a singular cause…It creates a sense of community pride, of belonging to something that is bigger than yourself. [The new facility will be] a place to gather with family, friends and neighbors. The student-athletes and spectators will not be the only beneficiaries. The facility will become a meeting place for walkers and runners of all ages: a place to congregate, a place to share, a safe place to walk, run and exercise.”

Arris closed with a note of gratitude, saying: “I can’t thank the voters enough for this huge gift to our community. Joan Benoit-Samuelson and Nike were a large factor and we will forever be grateful!”

Adam Birt can be reached at Follow him on Twitter: @CurrentSportsME