Change in Mask Policy a Breath of Fresh Air for Presque Isle Track and Field Athletes

“As a distance runner I’m very excited for this,” senior Amanda Winslow said in response the MPA lifting the requirement for spring athletes to wear masks in practice and competition on Wednesday.


Cameron Levasseur

A mask lays discarded on the track at the Gehrig Johnson Athletic Complex in Presque Isle.

Cameron Levasseur, Sports Editor

Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in, breathe out. It’s common knowledge to any runner that in order to race to your potential, you have to control your breathing. 

Last Wednesday, members of the Presque Isle High School Track and Field team learned just how difficult that simple task may be when airflow is restricted by a mask. 

“Anyone who’s ever ran two miles knows it’s hard to breathe in general,” said senior Amanda Winslow. “So with the additional constraint of the mask, although we’re used to it after having practiced with it, it’s still very difficult.”

In accordance with an executive order issued by Maine governor Janet Mills on November 5 of last year, the MPA’s “Return to Play” guidelines issued before the start of the spring season, stated that “All individuals must wear face coverings at all time, including athletes during competition.”

The protocol was first implemented at the tail end of the fall sports season, and was a major factor in the cancellation of the Cross Country State Championships, which had originally been scheduled for November 11 and 14 for boys and girls teams respectively. 

Winslow, who competed in a MPA sponsored consolation race in Bangor that took place after the mandate came into effect last fall, said of the event, “We had not been practicing or racing in masks all season, so coming in and having to wear them at that meet was so difficult, I think I underestimated how difficult it would be.” 

After all the difficulty these athletes have faced over the past several months regarding this cloth impediment to success, a collective sigh of relief ran through the team at the start of Wednesday’s practice when it was officially announced in a memo from MPA Director Mike Burnham that “Masks are not required for outdoor practices and competitions. Masks are recommended when six feet of physical distance is hard to maintain.” Such a reversal was in conjunction with the lifting of that November mandate the night before, a decision that came on the heels of the CDC issuing new guidance for outdoor mask wearing earlier that day. 

“It’s relieving that we’ll be able to compete at the level that we know we can without the hindrance of masks,” said senior Conner Michaud, a reigning state champion in the 4×400 meter relay.

His sentiment was one echoed by teammate and fellow senior Jacob Devine, “It’s going to feel good [to be running without a mask],” he said. “It’s bringing back some of the aspects of my senior year that I wanted and I hope it keeps going in this direction in the future. I’m excited to compete without a mask.”

The latter half of the memo issued further guidance for spring sporting events, stating that “Masks are required when individuals go inside (e.g., to locker rooms, rest rooms, or on a bus),” and “Spectators are not required to wear a mask at outside events if they are able to maintain six feet of distancing.”

The track team will be back in action this coming Saturday at the Gehrig Johnson Athletic Complex here in Presque Isle for their lone home meet of the season pending a second possible date change due to weather conditions.