For one Maine town, the top sports story of the year had nothing to do with Kim Condon, Cindy Blodgett, Bangor’s high school, minor league sports teams, or car racing.
For Jackman, it was all about an eight-member girls basketball team and a girls cross country squad, both of which won state championships in 1997.
Residents of the 926-person Western Maine town launched a write-in voting campaign to the NEWS’ Top 10 stories of the year for their state championship Forest Hills High School’s girls basketball and cross country teams.
The school itself has an enrollment of 60, including students from Jackman, Moose River, Dennistown, Long Pond and Lake Parlin.
The members of the basketball team were Marissa Moore, Rebecca Lumbert, Kamilla Roed, Stephanie Van Camp, Monique Morin, Jennifer Conrad, Sara Gourde and Lauren Kane. Van Camp and Conrad also ran cross country, along with Jessica Brady, Roxanne Paradise, Chrystal Levesque, Lindsay Keiper and Alison Brown.
Fred Haigis, who owns Granny’s Cap Bakery in Jackman, had the initial idea of replicating the NEWS form and adding the two Forest Hills items at the bottom.
Haigis said the idea came from discussions with Jackman residents at the bakery, which also doubles as a town gathering spot.
One woman agreed to print up a form on her computer and Haigis made almost 300 copies. He handed them out at the bakery and the ballots spread around town.
“This is a very small, close-knit town,” Haigis said. “We’re very insulated so we try to help the kids as much as we can. This was definitely a community effort.”
Forest Hills athletic director Anthony Amero filled out a ballot brought to him by a student, but didn’t realize at the time that the form was a fake.
“I was wondering why the two Forest Hills items were bold,” he said, laughing. “But I can see why people messed with the polls. The people here are still talking about the girls from last year. And we sell out every game.”
Michelle Newman, who graduated from Forest Hills in 1982, helped Haigis with the campaign.
“All of the people here in Jackman thought it was a big headline to win states,” said Newman, who keeps the books for the bakery. “So we got the fax machines going and we thought we could make some more headlines.”
Several Jackman businesses got in on the effort. Ballots were faxed from a retirement community called Northland Living Center, Paradise’s Auto Parts, Stony Brook Logging, and Hall and Smith, an oil distributor.
Charles and Rebecca O’Brien, who own and operate the Jackman IGA grocery store, heard about the write-in votes through an employee of the store.
Rebecca O’Brien, a 1974 Forest Hills graduate, said she sent in a ballot because the teams didn’t get enough recognition.
“We don’t get enough due coverage up here,” she said. “Anything that happens up here doesn’t get recognized.”
Haigis has lived in Jackman for 10 years. He said of all the sporting events he’s attended – including games at the Boston Garden and NCAA basketball tournament games – Forest Hills’ state basketball championship was the most memorable.
“I’ve never seen anything as monumental or earth-shattering,” Haigis said. “It was crazy here. A lot of people went down to the game and the school opened at 1 a.m. for people to get together.”
Other write-in votes included former Mountain Valley High School of Rumford basketball standout Andy Bedard’s transfer to UMaine; Cherryfield’s Andy Santerre fourth-place finish in Busch North Series points, the resignation of Orono boys basketball coach Dave Paul and Blodgett breaking Rachel Bouchard’s single-game scoring record.