Over in a corner of the Brewer Community School track, two longtime friends, classmates and former training partners watched in awe as 17 Brewer track alumns toed the starting line, ready to relive their glory days over four laps and one mile.
As she headed to the starting line, Deedra Dapice, a 1984 graduate of Brewer, looked at this pair, one a BHS Hall of Famer and the other carving a niche as a fitness trainer, and asked one simple question.
“Why aren’t you running?”
Heather Clark, one of the best distance runners the state of Maine has ever seen, and myself, were content to watch this one, as our fellow former Witches enthusiastically circled the track with smiles that could’ve stretched an entire 100-meter straightaway.
There were plenty of smiles, stories and spirit to last a century Saturday afternoon, as a throng of former Brewer track athletes came together to celebrate the 100th birthday of this proud program.
Lots of legendary faces returned to their alma mater during a Penobscot Valley Conference regular-season meet Saturday afternoon which doubled as Brewer’s Senior Day. Among them were Dave Farley, who has held the school record in the mile since 1959. Those familiar with Eastern Maine running circles may know his niece is former Hampden Academy standout Oriana Farley.
The eldest returning member was Richard Goodness from the Class of 1949, and other returnees included BDN colleague John Holyoke, his brother Glen, the aforementioned Clark, current Orono High School head coach Chris Libby, FinishLynx founder Doug DeAngelis (the winner of the aforementioned mile in a pretty impressive 5:13), former Brewer head track coach Jamerson Crowley (now a basketball coach at Lewiston High School), legendary sprinter Paul Elkin, and talented sprinter Kate Hanscom.
Of course, alums had the opportunity to participate in the meet. A lot of us were brave enough to do so. This former distance runner turned weightlifter even stepped outside the box, competing in the long jump for the first time since fifth grade and throwing the shot put for the first time ever. My former teammates were shocked to not see me in the mile. My return also included anchoring a 4×400 relay that included my former coach in Rand and one of my longtime Union Street Athletics clients in Bob Snow, along with John Mills.
The festivities ended with a pot luck dinner in which we had the option to share stories. Of course, I had a few of them to bring up, from us accidentally leaving a teammate at the Maine Mall in South Portland after state meet my junior year, legendary ultimate frisbee battles, late nights at Dysart’s, and much much more.
All the stories from different eras brought us to laughter. Even though many of us were from different decades, the one common ground we all shared was simple, and brought constant tears to the eyes of Rand and legendary coach Dave Jeffrey (1979-2003), was the fact that Brewer track is a family.
Rand and Jeffrey are two outstanding coaches with two different coaching styles. Rand was more laid back, while Jeffrey demanded that you always did your best, whether you were first or last. When I think of all the memories I had under Jeffrey’s tutelage, I think of a throwback type of coach that rarely exists anymore. I would not be the Les Mills instructor, husband or father that I am today without the life lessons they instilled. They weren’t just teaching us how to accelerate over hills or pace a two-mile. They taught us about life, and how to be extraordinary adults when we exited the program.
The smiles on their faces lit up the newly constructed Brewer High cafeteria as we shared our memories. Clark, a school-record holder in the 1,600 meters, was flattered that the modern-day Witches distance runners wanted a simple photo with this legendary Orange Waver. The Holyoke brothers – John and Glen – had some throwback memories that were good for lots of chuckles. John’s story of how he took to track was similar to mine in that he said farewell to organized sports played in courts and fields, and hello to track. The result was a pretty outstanding career in the high jump. I enjoyed organized football and basketball growing up, but my future was in track. And I’m glad I took that chance. I’m also proud to say I was a member of the last senior class to exit the program under Jeffrey. Seeing my old training partner in Clark made me think of when former Vermont hockey teammates Tim Thomas and Martin St. Louis shook hands and embraced after the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals. “The ole’ classmates.”
This was absolutely a celebration 100 years in the making, and I also have to thank the coaches of Brewer’s opponents – MDI, Hermon, Dexter, and Narraguagus – for being so cooperative and allowing this to happen. Rand and Jeffrey did an outstanding job of putting this all together, and us all being in the same room was just like we had never exited the program. And my 5-week-old son, Liam, and Clark’s 15-month-old little boy, Grayson, already started a little bond at the pot luck dinner.
Ohh, and the modern-day Witches made us proud by resoundingly sweeping the competition. Hopefully, we won’t have to wait another 100 years to do this again. Fellow Orange Wavers, until next time. Remember, The Wave Never Ends!