St. John Valley Times Year in Sports 2021, January to June
Editor’s Note: The following is the first of two articles highlighting some of the top sports stories from 2021. This article highlights events from January to June. The second installment will appear in the Jan. 5 issue.
The first six-months of 2021 began with disappointment and tragedy in the St. John Valley sports community. As the months went by, there were many moments to celebrate.
The High School basketball season got off to a late start for Valley Unified schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Valley Unified partners, SAD 27, SAD 33 and Madawaska School Department, all moved to a remote learning model before the 2020 Christmas break when COVID outbreaks took place in St. John Valley towns.
The Madawaska Middle/High School girls varsity basketball team saw their season canceled due to the lack of players and COVID-19 fears. With only four girls confirmed for the start of the season, Madawaska officials said they had no choice but to withdraw.
The St. John Valley mourned the unexpected death of a beloved community leader. Eric Werntgen was more than an athletic director, educator and coach; he was a mentor and trusted adviser to students, colleagues and friends. Werntgen left a legacy of compassion and respect for others.
A record number of anglers registered for the 16th annual Long Lake Ice Fishing Derby. The derby was a success for outdoor enthusiasts as well as for the Edgar J. Pelletier Cancer Fund, which benefits from money raised from the event.
Van Buren’s Isaiah Morales was selected by the The Maine McDonald’s/Maine Association of Basketball Coaches for the Boys Class C/D North McDonald’s All Star team.
Madawaska Snowmobile Club Trailmaster George Morneault received many unexpected well-wishes when snowmobile clubs and community groups throughout Aroostook County shared news of his 75th birthday on social media. Morneault has been a pillar of the sledding community for decades and his efforts have not gone unappreciated.
The Fort Kent Community High School boys and girls alpine ski teams ruled the slopes when they both took first place at the Aroostook County Alpine Ski meet. Athletes from Fort Kent and Madawaska were the fastest individual racers at the event.
The top-ranked Van Buren boys varsity basketball team advanced to the Division II championship but lost out to Southern Aroostook in the final game. Van Buren ended its season with an 11-3 overall record.
The Wisdom Middle/High School Pioneer girls varsity basketball team nearly ran away with the Aroostook County Division II championship, but fell to Southern Aroostook in the finals. The Pioneers went undefeated until the final game and ended the season with a 10-1 overall record.
St. David musher Jonathan Hayes and his team of Seppala Siberian sled dogs achieved a 280-mile trek through the northern Maine woods to honor the famed sled dog Togo. The journey took seven days and six nights to complete.
Wisdom Middle/High School softball came back swinging after a two season hiatus. The program was put on hold due to a lack of interest among students in 2019 and the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
Fort Kent hired a new parks and recreation director in Jason Nadeau. The logging business owner and former athlete with a college degree in sports management filled the position that Ann Beaulieu had held for more than two decades before she retired.
Things seemed to be returning to normal as Fort Kent announced the town pool would reopen for the summer and the popular Dutch Soccer Academy would return. The pool had been closed the previous summer and the traveling soccer academy had not visited in 2020 due to the pandemic.
The Fort Kent Summer Rec program for children announced it would not only expand programming but also return swimming lessons which were canceled due to COVID-19 during the summer of 2020.
Van Buren’s undefeated boys tennis team, with a 3-2 win over Orono, advanced to the regional championship.
The Fort Kent Warrior softball team won a preliminary playoff match against Orono to earn a spot in the quarterfinals. Fort Kent sophomore Larissa Daigle racked up her 10th home run during her first high school softball season.
The Aroostook League unveiled its 2021 spring All-Aroostook teams. Multiple St. John Valley athletes were included for baseball, softball, tennis and track and field.
Fort Kent students honored the late athletic director, educator and coach Eric Werntgen during a softball fundraiser for the Eric Werntgen Memorial Scholarship. Past and current high school boys baseball players and girls softball players competed against one another in the event held at Fort Kent Community High School.