Friday, January 15, 2021

Prep season on hold for indoor track, other sports for now

Windham's Wyatt Flibbert soars through the air
during a multi-school indoor track meet at the
University of Southern Maine in January 2020.
All athletic events in Cumberland County are
currently suspended because of an increase in
COVID-19 cases.
By Matt Pascarella

All high school sports in Cumberland County are currently on hold and the winter sports seasons began for Windham High School’s indoor track teams on Dec. 7.

Unfortunately, they were only able to get a couple weeks of practice in before an increase of coronavirus cases caused the Maine Department of Education to categorize Cumberland County as yellow which, according to Maine Principal Association’s guidelines means athletic activities are unable to take place, limiting in-person interactions between coaches and players.

Both the Windham girls’ and boys’ indoor track teams have been training virtually with the coaches sending them workouts and instructions over the internet.

The regular season was set to begin on Jan. 11, but now, Cumberland County schools are waiting for the next color code update which takes place on Friday, Jan. 15.

During this period of limbo, the girls’ indoor track team coached by Denise Curry has been practicing via Zoom three times a week with the girls running on their own.

The boys indoor track team has been doing virtual workouts via Google Meets and Coach Paula Pock emails weekend workouts for them to do them on their own as well. 

Windham senior Tavi Anghel said that he misses the excitement and adrenaline that flowed through the University of Southern Maine’s indoor track every Saturday. For Anghel, racing in front of hundreds of spectators gave him a rush and left him feeling satisfied afterward.

“Overall, it is disappointing, especially for our upper classman, but they all have been very positive and understanding about the situation, and we are thankful that we are still able to get together (virtually) and stay in shape,” said Pock.

Senior Ryan Abbotoni of Windham said it’s hard for him to not be able to compete in his last year of high school.

“I miss going to meets with my friends and trying to improve each week,” Abbotoni said.

Windham seniors Dustin Noonan and Ethan Wert said that they miss being able to see their friends and create life-long memories made from weeks of vigorous training and then celebrating their accomplishments afterward.

The Maine Department of Education will be coming out on Friday, Jan. 15 with a new color update for
Cumberland County. If Cumberland County returns to a green designation, RSU 14’s athletic director Rich Drummond said that the seasons will resume on Tuesday, Jan. 19.

Besides indoor track, other winter sports currently on hold for Windham High School include boys’ basketball, girls’ basketball, cheerleading, wrestling, swimming, ice hockey and alpine skiing.

When prep athletes are actually allowed to return to practice, masks must be worn at all times and they must successfully clear COVID-19 pre-screening requirements prior to each practice or game.

The state implemented its online risk assessment system for the virus last August.  A green designation means that fewer than one COVID-19 case per 100,000 people has been diagnosed in the county.

One to 9 is a yellow designation and between 10 and 24 is an orange designation. A red designation is when 25 or more diagnosed cases per 100,000 has been found in a Maine county.

State officials had originally announced in October that the winter prep sports season would be delayed. Ever since then, the starting date for winter sports activities has continued to be pushed back because of a dramatic spike in cases and deaths across the state. <

Tales from the Outdoors: Getting there may not be half the fun

By Bob Chapin

Special to The Windham Eagle 

If you watch many of the Hook and Bullet shows, the hunting and fishing shows on the Outdoor and Sportsman channels on TV, you’ll see that they are being filmed on increasingly remote locations, some in countries hostile to the US. 

They are places you cannot walk or drive to and you would likely have to take a plane plus a float or bush plane, a boat, or various kinds of livestock such as horses, mules, camels or even llamas. The producers downplay the element of danger hoping to make it appear more exotic if there is a perceived risk to your personal safety. I can attest to the reality of that danger even on a relatively “safe” hunt in the US.

Before I went on my first horseback elk hunt in Montana, I figured I better know something about horse riding. I was living in Northern Virginia at the time and I thought it would be easy to get a couple of riding lessons before heading out west. An internet and phone search found a stable not far from Washington DC in the horse country of Western Virginia and I gave them a call.

I grabbed a buddy who was game and we drove to the stables. It was a nice looking paddock but I noticed a slew of mounted riders all very proper young girls about 13 to 14 years of age, dressed to the nine’s in knee-high polished black leather boots, jodhpurs, smart black velvet riding jackets and a flocked helmet with a chin strap. And, of course, they were riding with English saddles. For those not familiar with saddles, the English saddle has a simple metal stirrup - basically a ring loosely hanging from a leather thong very high on the horse’s withers.

Our instructor assured us it was, “Just like a western saddle without the saddle horn (for holding on!) and the longer full stirrup that allowed your leg to extend straight down. Despite our misgivings, she led us up to a set of ‘stairs to nowhere’ that we climbed to get on the horses. Once seated we did a
couple of drills around the indoor arena before heading outside for the freelance work. 

The first event was a road crossing which we managed quite well …well how could we not, she was grasping the reins of my horse right at the bit the whole time! I think she would have stayed there for the duration, but it was time to give them a drink. 

As we approached a small stream, she let go of the reins and slapped the horse on the rump telling me to get all four of the horses feet in the water. Well, streams in Virginia are not quite like streams in Maine…the bottoms are mostly soft mud. As soon as my horse entered the stream he started stumbling and staggering as he sunk to his knees and I was convinced he was going to go down with me aboard. I pulled my rubber boots out of the stirrups and bailed out into the stream. I went over one boot under water but managed to stay upright though it was not graceful. 

She was upset that I, ‘Let the horse go’ but he took his drink and came out on her side of the stream, so all was OK. She boosted me back up onto the saddle and reinserted my boots into the stirrups.

The next drill was up and down hills but as we started up the small incline, the horse swung his head over toward her and bit her between her shoulder and neck. I am sure it must have hurt because she yanked his head down to her level then, to my surprise, she punched him right in the side of the head as hard as she could. He reared his head up but she controlled him with the reins. I told her I wished she
hadn’t done that while I was aboard.

She cut the lesson short and we headed for the arena. When we got inside, she simply said dismount as if we were seasoned riders. I managed to swing my right leg over the back of the horse but with the English saddles and their high stirrups I could barely reach the ground. Worse yet, the boot I submerged below its top had filled with water and that had expanded the boot foot to the point that I could not get it out of the stirrup.

I hopped along on one foot for half the arena before the horse finally stopped and with help, I got the boot extracted. This horseback riding was going to be harder than I thought. <

Friday, January 8, 2021

Tales From The Outdoors: Five more tips to make your outings fun

By Bob Chapin

I believe that vocalizations when deer hunting can be useful in attracting deer to your location or to trick them into identifying their location. To that end I have two calls…a fawn and a doe bleat that sound quite realistic, at least I know the fawn bleat is. I was bushwhacking down a small stream once in Virginia as there was no trail and the brush was thick on both sides. I came to a game trail that crossed the stream at the precise moment when a young fawn, who had become separated from its mother, got to the stream from the trail. We surprised one another and it bleated several times in an attempt to locate mom. That sound stuck with me and is mimicked very well by my call. 

The problem was both calls made by the same manufacturer looked, from outward appearances, to be identical. Small gold letters on the barrel of the call identified the sound it made but they were difficult to read in the good light of my kitchen but nearly impossible to read when up in a deer stand at dawn. To solve this problem, I took a three-cornered file and cut a small notch into the mouthpiece of the doe bleat large enough to feel with my mouth but not so large that I couldn’t cover it with my lips. So now I know instantly which call I am about to blow!

When I began shooting a bow, I routinely traveled to a couple of nearby ranges in order to take advantage of elevated shooting stands designed to copy the angles and ranges you could expect to shoot from in actual hunting situations in tree stands. Though the ranges were nearby, it was a pain to drive there during their hours, engage a safety observer or instructor, and leave when they were scheduled to close. I quickly realized if I was going to shoot with the regularity that most sources said a beginner should, I would need an elevated stand at home. 

So I built one out of pressure treated lumber complete with a seat and a safety harness and attached it to
a tree in the back yard. Rather than have only one target at a fixed range I located a company that was throwing out blocks of styrofoam roughly a foot square. I spray painted a “bullseye” on each and could locate them at various unknown ranges, some quite close to my stand. 

As it turned out that was good practice because none of the dozen or so deer that I have taken from a tree stand have exceeded 20 yards, and two of them I have had to wait for them to walk out from under my climbing tree stand foot platform before I could shoot!

The question of what footwear to put on when venturing out into the wild can be perplexing but it needn’t be. It really depends on where you are going.  The first consideration is comfort because if your feet are not happy, you will not be happy, your trips will be shorter, and probably not as successful. The second consideration is safety. Will the boots you select support your ankles and protect them from rocks and sharp sticks as you climb. Finally, will your feet be warm in them? Nothing shortens a day of ice fishing faster than cold feet. It really boils down to three basic boots with minor variations for style or cost. If you are going hiking in the mountains leather boots that cover your ankles are the ticket. I would shy away from the sneaker style even with reinforced soles as they tend to break down with
rugged use. 

The rubber soled lace up L.L. Bean-style hunting boots are great for most Maine woods where climbing is not anticipated. Also good in the flat land are the knee-high rubber boots such as the Muck boot. As long as you are careful not to exceed water depths in excess of the boot’s height you should be fine. I find myself reaching for the scent-free knee-high rubber boots most frequently even when launching a boat. Have I stepped over them on occasion, of course. It is never a fun experience.

When you go afield for the day take more than one pair of gloves. It is likely that the first pair you wear will get wet climbing frost covered tree stand steps, positioning decoys, or paddling your canoe. Warm hands keep you hunting.

I always carry fire starting equipment with me when hunting. I was able to recover a cold, wet hunting partner in Alaska close to hypothermia with a drink of hot chocolate made over an emergency fire. <

World-class skiing champion got start in Raymond

Kirsten Clark-Rickenbach competed in three Winter Olympic Games

By Ed Pierce

Her record speaks for itself and it’s likely that Raymond’s Kirsten Clark-Rickenbach will be remembered as the best Alpine skier ever from Maine.

She went from winning the U.S. Junior National Championship to earning a spot on the U.S. Olympic Ski Team and competing in the 1998, 2002 and 2006 Winter Olympic Games. Clark-Rickenbach also excelled in World Cup competition, securing a downhill victory, 28 Top-10 finishes, taking home a Silver Medal in the 2003 world Alpine Championships, and won seven U.S. National Championships including five straight downhill titles.

Now almost 14 years following her retirement from competitive skiing, Clark-Rickenbach remembers fondly growing up in Raymond and how it was a springboard to her success in life.

Growing up in Raymond, Kirsten Clark-Rickenbach went on
to become one of the top American Alpine skiers in history
and competed in three Winter Olympic Games as a member
of the U.S. Ski Team. COURTESY OF SKIMAG.COM  
I remember spending lots of time on Panther Pond, swimming, waterskiing and enjoying being outside,” she said. “My parents, George and Joan Clark, still live in Raymond. We try to get back there during the summer months, but we were unable to this year because of COVID.”

From kindergarten through sixth grade, she attended school in Raymond at Jordan-Small School and then went to North Yarmouth Academy for two years before transferring to Carrabassett Valley Academy at Sugarloaf as her skiing career was starting to take off.

“My parents started my brother Sean, and I in skiing because it was a great family sport that we could all do,” Clark-Rickenbach said. “We all enjoyed being outside and enjoyed skiing. I grew up loving to ski and I was able to make a career out of ski racing, I feel that I was extremely fortunate that I was able to pursue my dreams and that I was able to make them a reality.”  

The skier’s first victories were recorded in 1994 when she won the U.S. Junior Olympics downhill championship and a bronze medal in the Super Giant Slalom at Sugarloaf. In 1997, she captured the Nor-Am GS title.

Hard work, determination and years of training paid off for her when she earned a place on the U.S. Ski Team at the age of 19. At age 20, she competed for the U.S. in the Winter Olympics at Nagano, Japan.

“The best thing about competing in the Olympics, that is a tough one,” Clark-Rickenbach said. “It is amazing to fulfill a dream and to complete at the Olympics, and not to do it only once but three times. I
was honored and excited to be competing for my home country.”  

The life as a competitive skier can be a grind and a test of mental and physical endurance as Clark-Rickenbach found out during her career.

“World Cup Ski Racing occurs for the majority of the time in Europe for the winter,” she said. “The most difficult thing was being away from home for so long. There would be years I would leave at the end of November and not return until the end of March. That is a long period of time to be away from family and friends.”

Overcoming serious injuries sustained in World Cup competition, Clark says she’s proud of what she was able to accomplish and officially retired from competitive skiing in 2007. In 2010, she was inducted into the Maine Ski Hall of Fame and she was honored with induction into the U.S. Ski-Snowboard Hall of Fame in 2012.

She now lives with her husband, Andreas Rickenbach, a former World Cup skier and a former U.S. Ski Team coach, in Olympic Valley, California.  

“My husband and I are raising two daughters, who are 12 and 10,” Clark-Rickenbach said. “We spend
the days in the summer, horseback riding, hiking, biking and enjoying the outdoors. In the winter we spend our time skiing.”

According to Rickenbach-Clark, her advice for young people who are interested in someday competing in the Olympics is simple.

“If you have a dream and a goal, go after it,” she said. “So much of the excitement of reaching and striving for your dreams is the journey that it takes you on.  Believe in yourself and always put 100 percent effort into your training. If you are putting a 100 percent effort in, then you can always hold your head high and know you did your best.” <