Friday, August 26, 2022

Windham varsity girls’ soccer edges York in preseason game

Windham varsity soccer freshman Neve Ledbetter holds onto
the ball before passing it to a teammate during a preseason
game against York at Windham on Saturday, Aug. 20.  
By Matt Pascarella

Before the official start of Windham High School’s fall sports season starts in early September, the girls’ varsity soccer team outscored York in a preseason home game 2-1 on Saturday, Aug. 20.

Windham freshman Neve Ledbetter scored part way through the first half. York answered and tied the game. Early in the second half, Windham senior Abbey Thornton scored what turned out to be the winning goal, assisted by Windham senior Liz Levesque. York was unable to score by the final whistle to tie the game.

“For the first game I think it was really good passing, like looking for open people,” said Ledbetter. “I think we used really good give-and-goes and looking for other people and communication.”

Windham had a strong start and Lady Eagles defense kept York from scoring for almost the entire first half. Windham had several shots at goal which included a shot that came close when it hit the top goal post.

After a pass from Thornton, Ledbetter capitalized on an opportunity and put the ball in the back of the net.

York answered and tied the game 1-1 at the half. 

In the second half, a nice pass from Levesque to Thornton and Thornton scored to put Windham ahead early in the second half.

With 20 minutes remaining, Windham’s defense held off York.

“I think we passed the ball well, but I feel like we have a big comeback that we have to build up from last year in our passing. Overall, I think we worked pretty hard,” said Levesque.

Windham girls’ varsity soccer coach Deb Lebel said the team chemistry with the seniors this year is really strong. Thornton controlled the midfield well, Levesque on the right midfield and Ashley Clark continue to work really well together.

Although this was a preseason win, the team has some work to do.

“We’re a work in progress; we’re still figuring out positions,” said Lebel. “We have a lot of different kids shining on different days which is great but making our job a little bit harder.”

Ledbetter said they need to get used to playing with each other a little more. She really loves playing on the team and is excited to see how the season unfolds.

Levesque said they need to know when to step up their positioning on defense and know where to be on the field.

“We need to sort out our defense and fill some spots,” said Lebel. “Once we solidify the team and bring everybody together as a group that will help us. We’ve got to learn to trust each other and get comfortable playing with a new group of kids.”

According to Lebel, if they keep working hard and keep progressing, they should be where they want to be by their first regular season game on Labor Day weekend. <

‘Gatorade Maine Softball Player of the Year’ Gerry donates to Camp Sunshine through ‘Play It Forward’ program

Windham High School junior Brooke Gerry holds her 
2021-2022 'Gatorade Maine Softball Player of the Year'
trophy after donating $1,000  through Gatorade's
'Play ot Forward' program to Camp Sunshine in Casco 
By Matt Pascarella 

 Brooke Gerry was chosen as the 2021-2022 “Gatorade Maine Softball Player of the Year” back in June and this honor is reserved only for the nation’s best high school athletes. Gerry is the first softball player to be chosen for the honor from Windham High School.

As part of this achievement, Gerry, a junior at WHS, was able to donate $1,000 to an organization of her choice through Gatorade’s “Play It Forward” grant program. Gerry chose Camp Sunshine in Casco as the donation recipient and was part of a small ceremony at Camp Sunshine on Friday, Aug. 19.

Camp Sunshine’s mission is to provide a no-cost retreat that combines respite, support, recreation and hope to families of children with life-threatening illnesses through the various stages of a child’s illness.

Brooke lived in Casco before coming to Windham and her dad was a member of the Casco Fire Department for 19 years. Gerry chose Camp Sunshine because she had attended many banquets there and it was always a place where she felt she could be herself.

Camp Sunshine was founded in 1984 on Sebago Lake by Anna Gould and Dr. Larry Gould who donated their facilities and personnel at Point Sebago Resort to host camp sessions for children with life-threatening illnesses and their families.

Over the years, the program grew in popularity with numbers increasing and the demand for services exceeded capacity. In 2001, Camp Sunshine became a year-round facility on 25 acres donated by Anna and Dr. Larry Gould.

Prior to 2001, Camp Sunshine offered four to six sessions during the spring and fall where they served roughly 180 families each year. Camp Sunshine now serves as many as 750 families a year with more than 25 sessions offered annually. Since it began in 1984, they have served family members from all 50 states and 27 different countries.

Gerry said Camp Sunshine helps a lot of sick kids and their families enjoy the time they have with their children. It really speaks to her that they do this.

“Brooke has always been a caring young lady as long as I’ve known her,” said Windham varsity softball coach Fred Wilcox. “It was no surprise she picked Camp Sunshine as they’re a place that is very family-oriented and looks to help not just the child with an illness, but they also help the family navigate through these hard times.”

Wilcox said Gerry has a big heart and was brought up helping others. She comes from a very involved family as her father has been a long-time firefighter and her mother a teacher.

Camp Sunshine is preparing to return to their in-person sessions after two years of virtual sessions, so any donation helps move their mission forward.

“What's kind of cool is that one of our own, one of our neighborhood Casco young adults has selected Camp Sunshine,” said Camp Sunshine Executive Director Michael Katz. “It's inspiring to see them just embrace us as a charity and want to do good in the community and make a difference.”

The donation will go toward helping out the families, operationally, with offering Camp Sunshine’s services.

When a family comes to Camp Sunshine, everything is provided; this includes meals, lodging and on-site medical support. Any amount of support received helps to fray the cost and make it possible to have families stay during camp sessions.

Gerry knows she’s fortunate to have been able to do some of the things she’s done. Camp Sunshine gives others who might not be as fortunate a chance to forgot about their illness and have fun with their family and friends.

“We would like to express our utmost gratitude to Brooke for selecting us and for being an individual that cares,” said Katz. “And for wanting to help others and to do it here in our own back yard ... it’s inspiring, it’s amazing and it’s refreshing to see a young adult want to do that.” <

Sebago Lake anglers gearing up for 7th Annual Togue Derby

The Sebago Lake Anglers’ Association, a local fishing club, is getting ready to host its 7th Annual Togue Fishing Derby on Sebago Lake, on Saturday Sept. 10 and Sunday Sept. 11, the weekend after Labor Day.

The derby is the club's primary fundraiser of the year and the majority of funds raised are used to pay for derby prizes and to buy youth lifetime fishing licenses through the State of Maine program. The club is the largest purveyor of youth licenses in the state.

The license allows children, selected in a post-derby lottery, to fish anywhere in Maine for free for the rest of their lives regardless of age, nationality, sex, marital status or location of residency. Children are nominated to win a license through a current club member or through a sponsor who has donated to the cause.

This year's fishing derby will commence at 6 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 10 and includes all of Sebago Lake. Fishing on that day will terminate at 3 p.m. and the weigh station will close at 4 p.m. that Saturday. The largest fish caught on Saturday will also qualify for a prize.

Sunday’s fishing also starts at 6 a.m. and cuts off at 2 p.m. Fish must be submitted to the weigh station by 3 p.m. All derby operations will be conducted out of Sebago Lake State Park Main Boat Ramp Area. Participants do not need to launch your boat there but that is where all fish need to be checked in.

There will be awards to the Top 10 fish by weight. Additionally, all togue legally caught can be submitted to participate in the Togue Pool Lottery. Fishermen will be given a ticket for each fish submitted and three drawings will be held for a $100 prize each.

There is even an award for the smallest Togue caught on hook and line. All Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife rules must be followed. All fishermen aboard a boat must be registered before the start of fishing.

Registration fees are $35 for adults and $15 for kids 12 and under.

Fishermen seeking registration forms can pick them up at Naples Bait and Tackle, Route 35 in Naples, Dag’s Bait on Minot Street in Auburn, Hilltop Mini Mart on Route 302 in Raymond, and Jordan’s Store, Route 114 in Sebago or by calling 207-655-1028.

Sebago Lake Anglers’ Association President Bob Chapin says the club has kept the monetary awards modest ($500 First Place) but award lots of prizes (15) on purpose because this is essentially a local community derby.

If you win one of the Top 10 prizes, you are disqualified from winning any of the other Top 10 awards. While there may be several guides and professional fishermen competing, it is really for the first time or casual fisherman to get the experience of a derby, Chapin said.

In addition to providing the fishing experience, this derby supports state management goals for Sebago Lake by removing excess togue from Sebago Lake allowing other fish, like salmon, to compete for a diminishing forage fish base.

Fish turned in by fishermen not wanting to keep them for eating will be iced down and given to other fishermen wanting them, local food pantries, and fish processing companies so that none go to waste.

Late to register? Bring registration form or just come to the late registration booth that will be set up outside the State Park Entrance gate starting at 5 a.m. and ending 10 a.m. Saturday, Sept., 10. Sunday Sept. 11 registration can be done by coming to the weigh-in station at the State Park Boat Launch.

Any questions regarding the derby can be directed to Bob Chapin at 207-655-1028 or by sending an email to <

Friday, August 19, 2022

Windham Parks and Recreation’s summer track and field team showcases skills at state meet

Windham freshman Karl Longstreth receives
congratulations from Windham Parks and
Recreation track and field coach Katherine
Slomczynski after he became state champion
in javelin with a 120-foot throw during the
United States of America Track and Field
Meet at Cony High School in Augusta on Aug.
By Matt Pascarella 

The Windham Parks and Recreation summer track team competed in the Maine United States of America Track and Field (USATF) state meet at Cony High School in Augusta on Saturday, Aug. 13. Windham performed with distinction, sending a squad of 16 athletes from ages 8 to 15 to represent the town.

To participate in the state competition, athletes had to place in the top four at the qualifier meet.

The COVID-19 pandemic had temporarily halted the summer state meets for a while and Windham had not competed in one since 2019.

“The kids missed being able to do the meets the past few years, so they were excited to be back,” said Windham Parks and Recreation track and field coach Philip Jackson. “The kids liked being able to see their progress from meet to meet. The 13 to 14-year-old boys were a cohesive group. They were very supportive of each other and were good at pushing each other as well. I am especially proud of the sportsmanship of our athletes.”

At Augusta, Windham freshman Karl Longstreth was the boys’ javelin state champion with a throw of 36.62 meters – about 120 feet. He also placed second in the 100 meter, and third in the 200.

Many other Windham athletes also racked up exceptional performances in the state competition including:

· Windham freshman Meg Kingsley finished second in the 400, third in the javelin, fourth in the girls’ 100 and fifth in the long jump.

· Windham seventh-grader Peter Funk finished second in the boys’ shotput and fifth in the discus.

· Windham’s Josephine Sanborn placed third in the 9 to 10-year-old 800 race-walk.

· Windham’s relay team of freshmen Aaron Sanborn, Marek Slomczynski, Connor Witham, and Karl Longstreth finished in second place.

Windham’s Mason Bragdon finished third in the 13 to 14-year-old boys’ 3000 run and also competed in discus.

· Windham freshman Nick Verill finished third in the boys’ high jump.

· Windham freshman Connor Witham finished fifth in the boys’ javelin.

· Windham seventh-grader Renner Gerrity finished fifth in the boys’ 80-meter hurdles.

· Windham sixth-grader Jacoby Burton finished fifth in the boys’ triple jump.

“The whole Windham team worked so hard all summer putting all of our effort in every meet,” said Longstreth. “Every practice we try our hardest pushing our limits and making us stronger which made us faster and better for the state.”

Longstreth said he felt like a champion when he heard how far he threw the javelin before he became state champion.

He’s been working hard at track and field for seven years now, and that hard work has finally paid off.

According to Longstreth, he’s very proud of everything he accomplished during this year’s state meet in Augusta. <

Leadership a natural progression for Windham JV field hockey coach

Lyndsay Stretch is entering her
second season as the JV field
hockey coach at Windham High
By Matt Pascarella 

Windham junior varsity field hockey coach Lyndsay Stretch has admired her coaches over the years and followed them into the profession. She has coached field hockey at various levels for seven years and this fall she will be entering her second year as the Windham JV field hockey coach.

Her aunt was a field hockey coach and a significant influence on her deciding to become a coach, she said.

Stretch played a variety of sports in middle and high school. In college, she played field hockey at the Division 2 level.

“I love the game of field hockey,” said Stretch. “It has always been with me since my youth, and the idea of giving back to my community, the way my coaches did for me and my teammates, has always stuck with me.”

She began coaching youth soccer and youth field hockey when her children began playing. Coaching was a good opportunity for her to spend time with her kids as well as get to know her community.

Stretch coached Raymond Youth Soccer in 2016 and Windham Youth field hockey in 2017. In 2018, she coached Windham Middle School field hockey, and did so for three seasons.

Her favorite aspect of coaching are the players.

“We spend a lot of hours together throughout the season, and I am honored to be a witness to their triumphs, successes, mental fortitude, and all the stuff it takes to get to these places as an athlete,” said Stretch.

At the end of a season, Stretch would like her players to walk off the field knowing the value of teamwork and building trust amongst one another. Once that is learned, great accomplishments and successes can be achieved.

“Lyndsay has been an amazing addition to the high school staff,” said Windham varsity field hockey coach Cory DiDonato. “She really helped build the athlete's skills prior to entering high school. Lyndsay has brought knowledge, skill, and leadership. She is a sounding board for me and is an incredible individual. She is compassionate and driven and has been a great asset to the program.”

As Stretch looks toward the fall season, she says that Windham has a solid senior class of athletes who are all in; she cannot wait to see what the players will bring to the field.

A big goal of Stretch’s for the upcoming season is to recruit and build the program up after some momentum was lost over the pandemic. It’s never too late to try a new sport with the chance to grow with teammates in a program run by passionate coaches.

“What makes Coach Stretch such a good coach, is her ability to build a team that’s there for one another,” said Windham JV girls’ field hockey sophomore Ava Gerrity. “She has bonded with us all which has bettered ourselves as players on and off the field. Coach Stretch has been so supportive and patient and I’m so lucky to have her as my coach.”

When Stretch is not coaching, she is a mom to three kids. Her partner Seth helps her manage the chaos. She can be seen at the soccer field, football practice or field hockey game.

Stretch also owns Petals Farm and Garden, a garden design, installation, and maintenance business with just over half-acre flower farm, which started in 2020 to connect flower lovers to nature and grow a community of flower lovers in Windham. <

Friday, August 12, 2022

Windham graduate Braxton Cassidy’s work ethic taking him far

Windham High graduate Braxton Cassidy suits up for Bridgton
Academy during a game against Naval Academy Preparatory
School on Sept. 28, 2019. PHOTO BY EZRA SMITH 
By Matt Pascarella 

In the summer of 2019, Windham senior Braxton Cassidy was the only player chosen from the Windham varsity football team to play in the Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl Classic. In that game he was a co-captain for his team, but it wasn’t easy to get there.

In his junior year, he had set a goal to play football at a NCAA Division 1 school but wasn’t eligible and in order to gain eligibility, he needed to improve is overall Grade Point Average.

Cassidy attended Bridgton Academy for his first year of college and was able to get his grades up the same way he approaches football - through hard work and dedication.

Once he was accepted to Bridgton Academy, he was able to play football while he worked on his GPA. While at Bridgton Academy, he was heavily recruited by NCAA Division 1, Division 2 and Division 3 schools.

“If a coach from Windham called up and said we got a kid like Braxton Cassidy, I’d take him in a heartbeat,” said now-retired Head Bridgton Academy Football Coach Rick Marcella.

Marcella described Braxton as having a dynamic personality and said that Cassidy was in it to win it, was driven and motivated and that carried over from the playing field to the classroom.

Marcella said Cassidy challenged himself and in the process the kids who played next to him and the kid across the line of scrimmage. A kid on defense knew that if they were lined up against Cassidy, they couldn’t take a play off. 

Once Cassidy became eligible to play Division 1 football, he chose Central Connecticut State College because they have an outstanding football program along with a strong academic program.

“Braxton ... without a doubt works his butt off to be the best lineman he can,” said CCSU junior and teammate Tyler Logan. “The hard work and success that he has on the field only motivates the guys around him.”

Logan said Cassidy is very supportive of his teammates especially when they need it. Cassidy’s work ethic is a great motivator for Logan to come out and work hard every day.

“It is important for me to put in so much hard work because that's what coaches notice and that's what got me noticed,” said Cassidy. “One thing that all my coaches have said about me is that I'm a hard worker.”

While attending CCSU, Cassidy is majoring in exercise science. He said that he plans to use his degree to be a strength and conditioning coach either at the college or the high school level.

Cassidy said ever since he experienced eligibility issues it’s been very important to him to stay on top of his grades; he thinks he’s done a good job of doing that in college.

He continues to succeed off the field. Last fall, Cassidy made the college’s Dean’s List and during a very busy season this past spring, he was able to maintain a 3.16 GPA.

His goal for this upcoming season is to play in six or more games, continue to improve his game and win the conference championship for CCSU. He’s going to continue to master the techniques he’s learned at CCSU.

Cassidy’s advice to high school students who would like to achieve what he’s achieved whether in football or another sport is to stay humble, work hard, show respect to both coaches and teammates and never stop trying to achieve what you want.

“If I quit at the first thing that went wrong, I would never have gotten the opportunity play at CCSU,” said Cassidy.

When he’s not on the football field, Cassidy enjoys playing video games and watching YouTube and movies. When he has free time, he plays lacrosse with his girlfriend, Amy. <

Sandlot baseball a relaxed opportunity to play Little League

Windham fourth-grader Mason Clapp throws a pitch during a 
Windham Little League Sandlot baseball game at Ciccerone 
Field at Lowell Farm in Windham on Aug. 3.
By Matt Pascarella

After very successful summer and All-Star seasons, Windham Little League baseball and softball is closing out the summer with a Sandlot league.

In the Sandlot league ball, there are no umpires and no coaches. Strikes, balls and outs are loosely kept track of, and the score isn’t as important as having fun and playing the game fairly.

The second Sandlot game of the season was played at Ciccerone Field at Lowell Farm in Windham on Wednesday, Aug. 3.

In Windham’s Sandlot league, players ages 7 to 12 are given the opportunity to play with other players from softball and baseball that they don’t often compete against in the regular or All-Star seasons.

Some of the older players outside that age bracket are invited to play and help teach the younger players.

Windham Little League President Tim Gaudet said that the Sandlot league is important because it gets kids out of the house later in the summer and gives them a chance to hang out with their friends while playing America’s favorite pastime.

While the games are more about fun and less about score, participants are having a blast playing Sandlot.

Windham players had several nice hits during the second Sandlot game: sixth-grader Ryan Manning singled to left field, home-schooler Jordan Tom doubled, freshman Belle Pinto and third-grader Brooke Legere both singled; first-grader Jack Bisson also got a couple good hits during the game. 

Windham sixth-graders Gianna Lane and Maddie Valliere say they enjoyed playing in the Sandlot games. They said it’s more intense to play with the boys, but the more aggressive game is fun.

“It gives [Jack] an extra opportunity to play with older children, learn from them, just stay involved with Little League,” said Windham parent Meaghan Bisson.

Bisson said Jack is given more confidence during the sandlot games. For Jack to be able to play with and learn from the older kids in a relaxed setting has improved his hitting.

This is the fourth or fifth year that Windham Little League has had a Sandlot league. While the league is a no-pressure, no-score game where the objective is fun, sometimes Gaudet will take the opportunity to teach an individual the correct way or rule behind a play.

Windham fourth-grader Mason Clapp said he likes getting together with all the players for a Sandlot game. He’s not used to playing alongside softball players, but it’s still fun.

Sandlot league helps players grow athletically and socially.

“I know kids that have never played before came out and played Sandlot when they were younger and now, they’re in our Majors program,” said Gaudet. <

Friday, August 5, 2022

WYSA’s Windham 2 team ends summer season with narrow loss to Freeport

Windham 2 team sophomore Preston Stretch heads across 
the pitch during a youth soccer game July 28 at Freeport.
By Matt Pascarella 

It was a defensive battle in the first half as Windham Youth Soccer Association’s Windham 2 team prevented opponent Freeport from scoring, but a second half goal was the difference as Windham 2 fell to Freeport 1-0 on the road on Thursday, July 28.

Windham offense was strong and had many shots at goal throughout the game against Freeport but was unable to capitalize.

Freeport narrowly found the back of the net early in the second half and despite a very strong effort by Windham, they were not able to tie or get ahead and lost by a single goal.

“We did good, we could’ve played better,” said Windham freshman Aidan Difiore. “Our defense was spacing out. We were getting through well; we just couldn’t finish.”

Difiore said passing in the midfield area, clearing the ball and spacing went really well. 

As soon as the game began Windham had a solid attempt with an early shot at goal. Windham worked hard and gave 100 percent the entire game.

Windham pressured Freeport and kept the ball almost exclusively in front of the Freeport goalie for the entire first half. Windham had many shots at goal that included a direct kick that hit the top bar of the goal.

The Windham defense prevented Freeport from scoring in the first half, ending in a 0-0 tie at intermission.

“We had more chances to score I feel,” said Windham Youth Soccer Association’s Windham 2 coach Mitchell Hodge. “I think just nerves and excitement and all of that flowing [led to] some split-second mistakes or miss hitting the ball or little things like that.”

Hodge said that it was a pretty positive game overall, which is what he’s looking for. He said the season has been good, he’s seen a lot of growth and excitement about the upcoming high school fall season.

Hodge said the team made some adjustments in the second half that worked really well, along with spacing and positioning with their mid-field and forwards.

In the second half, Freeport scored within the first minute of play.

Windham continued to work hard and hustled in the second half as they worked to score. The Eagles again had multiple shots at goal, even one that bounced off the goal’s side bar.

“I think we did good; it was just those final passes we got to capitalize more on,” said Windham freshman Camden Patin. “The final 15 minutes of that last half, we wanted it more than they did. It’s a tough loss, but I think we’ll be a good team coming up this year.”

Patin said he could see their improvement from the first game in the beginning of the summer season to this one with Freeport. He said communication and one-touch passes went well against Freeport. <

Eagles’ summer basketball camp great opportunity to make friends, learn skills

Windham varsity senior and volunteer JC Chouinard teaches
basketball skills to students during the Eagles' summer
basketball camp on Wednesday, July 27 at Windham
By Matt Pascarella

For as long as Windham varsity boys’ basketball coach Chad Pulkkinen can remember, Windham basketball has had a summer camp, where younger kids can learn the skills of the game as well as meet new people, who could one day be their teammates.

Pulkkinen has been running the camp for six years and next winter will begin his eighth year as the head boys’ basketball varsity coach. He’s had a tremendous response to his annual camp with almost 100 kids signing up.

Things are starting to come back to normal as far as kids’ camps go following the pandemic and Pulkkinen and his assistant coaches Geoff Grigsby and Noah Estey say that they were glad they could help the younger, aspiring players of the community out by hosting the K to 8 basketball camp at Windham High School during the last week of July.

“The No. 1 goal is to have fun,” said Pulkkinen. “It gives them an outlet to learn the game and have some fun.”

Every day of the camp there were themes like teammate, hustle, body language or coachability. Along with essential basketball skills, Pulkkinen and his coaches teach the kids the importance of being kind on the court and what it means to be a good teammate.
Basketball has given Pulkkinen a lot of life skills, so part of his goals for this camp is to teach life skills to the future group of varsity players.

“Overall basketball has been a tool for me to apply in all that I do,” said Pulkkinen. “Commitment, dedication, discipline, how to handle adversity, how to be a good teammate. It's shown me when you work hard at something and put the time in it pays off. You get what you put in.”

Players from freshmen to seniors volunteered their time and set a good example for the young athletes and participants appreciated the new skills they worked on at the camp.

“I’ve learned new ways to dribble and new ways to throw,” said Windham fifth-grader Kingston Mack.

Mack’s goal is to make over 1,000 shots in his lifetime.

Windham senior and varsity player JC Chouinard remembered attending this camp himself when he was much younger and how he looked up to high school varsity players.

“It’s pretty cool it’s come full circle now that I’m a senior here,” said Chouinard.

Chouinard has volunteered at the camp for the last four years and likes that it brings the community together. He likes seeing the younger kids learn the game.

Basketball has helped Chouinard out a lot in his life, so if he can use basketball to help another young athlete, that means a lot to him.

Chouinard said that his goal during the week was to have the kids remember the camp and the fun they had, skills they improved upon and new friends that they made.

Windham second-grader William Hanf had been working on making baskets and drills during the Eagles’ Basketball camp. He said he wanted to become better at playing basketball and has been having fun learning new skills and meeting new people.

“I just think it helps everybody come together and get to know each other. The camp shows you how to be a good teammate. And that really goes beyond the court in everyday life,” said Chouinard. <