The Messalonskee High School baseball and softball teams did not travel to Skowhegan Friday afternoon to play scheduled games there.
With the ongoing national manhunt for John Williams, the man suspected of killing Somerset County sheriff’s Cpl. Eugene Cole early Wednesday morning, area school administrators remained cautious. Authorities have called Williams armed and dangerous as they scour the region for him.
“Everybody is trying to err on the side of caution, especially when it comes to sending kids up into that area,” Messalonskee athletic director Tom Hill said. “People are kind of uncomfortable doing that. It’s totally understandable.”
Skowhegan was set to host Messalonskee in both varsity baseball and softball. After three days of a school “lock-in” in School Administrative District 54, Friday was the first day Skowhegan student athletes were allowed to be outdoors after school hours for practices and games.
Ashley Alward, a senior at Skowhegan and pitcher for the Indians’ softball team, said she understands why other schools would be reluctant to travel to Skowhegan in the wake of the manhunt for Williams, who was a member of the Skowhegan Area High School class of 2007.
“It’s a bummer that we couldn’t play or weren’t able to practice (Wednesday or Thursday), but if it’s a concern of safety, it’s understandable,” Alward said.
“Not really knowing what’s going on, it’s just a matter of you’ve got to make decisions based on the safety of all kids,” Hill said.
Skowhegan athletic director Jon Christopher said that Friday was a return to as much of a normal schedule as possible for the school’s athletic teams. Tennis matches both at home and on the road were still on schedule to be played. The Mt. Blue tennis team was scheduled to play at Skowhegan Friday afternoon.
Christopher said Skowhegan teams practicing outdoors Friday were encouraged to be finished by 5 p.m. Under guidance from local law enforcement agencies and school officials, the goal was to have as many people as possible home and off roads by nightfall.
“I think people would rather play it safe than sorry, versus wishing after the fact that you’d played it safe,” said Christopher, adding that he felt it was safe for athletes to be outside on campus.
Messalonskee’s boys and girls lacrosse teams planned on traveling to play road games Friday, at Greely and at Falmouth, respectively.
Alward said she and her teammates were not concerned for their safety. As part of the school’s lock-in this week, there has been an added presence of police officers both inside and outside of the school buildings.
“They’ll make sure we’re safe,” Alward said. “It’s a little worrisome that there’s someone on the loose that already hurt somebody and who could do more damage. It makes me a little uneasy. But I know personally a bunch of (police officers) and firemen here who will be out there risking their lives for us to make sure we’re safe.
“The hope is that all of them come home safe, too.”
Messalonskee would have been willing to host the baseball and softball games on Friday in Oakland, but heavy rains the last two days rendered those fields unplayable.