AUBURN — She was a standout swimmer in the making.
When a young Kristi (Royer) Ouellette began her career as an athlete, one of the first places she excelled was in the pool. She was a promising young swimmer with many laps in the pool ahead of her.
Then she held a basketball.
“Before I knew it, I was on, like, five basketball teams in one season,” Ouellette said. “My parents just put me in as many different situations and opportunities that I could have to play.”
Ouellette quickly felt at home on the court and fell in love with the game. It was the start of a basketball career that would have a lasting impact on her life.
“Going from swimming, which was an individual sport, to basketball, which was a team sport, was a lot of fun,” Ouellette said. “You had the camaraderie of teammates and trying to be successful. I could work on individual moves that I could practice every day but also just have the friends and that group of friends that you always played with. “
She went on to become one of Lewiston High School’s greatest basketball players and followed that up with a memorable career at Bowdoin College.
That success has earned her a place among this year’s inductees to the Auburn-Lewiston Sports Hall of Fame. The 32nd annual awards banquet and induction ceremony will be Sunday at Lost Valley.
In addition to her success as an athlete, she also has the distinction of being part of the first father-daughter tandem to be inducted. Her father, Fred Royer, was inducted in 2009.
“It’s pretty special,” Ouellette said. “When I talk to my dad, he was always like, ‘I thought you’d make it in, but I didn’t think I would.’ I knew about all his achievements but he’d be like, ‘You did basketball and you did softball. You had a lot of high school and college success.’ I’d tell him, ‘But dad, you were a great coach, too.'”
Ouellette played softball and soccer in high school as well, but it was basketball that drove her most. She came up through the youth levels and developed a passion for the game and built high aspirations.
“I think from an early age, and by the time I got to middle school, I watched the high school players and what was that end result that high school players wanted to achieve as a team?” Ouellette said. “Myself and Lynn Girouard were always teammates and always successful. So we always talked about how when we got to high school, we wanted to make varsity as freshmen and we wanted to have that Gold Ball.”
Girouard, who now coaches the Blue Devils’ varsity team, was a rival of Ouellette’s at the youth level, but became a teammate in middle school. They both made the Lewiston varsity team as freshmen. Ouellette scored 29 points in her first game and led the team in scoring her first season.
She and Girouard would fuel the Blue Devils’ success. Lewiston reached the regional final three straight years. The Blue Devils won the regional title in 1999, the first for the program, before losing to Mt. Blue in the state game. Royer became the first Lewiston girls’ basketball player to reach the 1,000-point mark. Girouard was the second. Both achieved the milestone in the same season.
“Having that type of success is something I’ve always been proud of,” Ouellette said. “Starting as a freshman was a goal I had — to prove yourself and prove that you’re better than other players. All that hard work that I put in had paid off. That was a big thing for me, playing in that first high school game.”
Ouellette finished as Lewiston’s all-time leading scorer and followed up her tremendous high school career with four years at Bowdoin. It was a sizable step up to the college level, but the opportunity and challenge inspired Ouellette’s game.
“My personality is really trying to be successful and trying to do whatever I can to be successful,” she said. “So in the first practice, you meet your teammates and you’re gauging where you stand and how you can make yourself a better player and make the team better. So coming into college, those were where my thoughts were.”
Ouellette focused on earning a spot and improving her game enough to secure that role. She practiced little things, her shot, and her free throws. She even noticed how some players could be lazy on rebounds in practice. She made sure she wasn’t. She watched how different shots came off the rim in order to be in the right position for them in games.
“Those were the things I definitely take pride in in game situations and in preparing for games — doing little things like that that I could control,” Ouellette said. “Those were some things I practiced daily. So when I got into games, I knew exactly what I had to do. It was things like that that I took pride in and knew I could make myself a better player if I put in that extra time and effort.”
During her time with the Polar Bears, the program became a national power. Royer was a proven scorer and a tenacious rebounder. Ouellette scored 1,449 career points, putting her fourth all-time in scoring. She’s also fourth in career rebounds with 769. In her four seasons, she led the Polar Bears in scoring three times and led in rebounding all four years. She was named a regional All-American twice.
After college, she coached the girls’ basketball team at Falmouth for two seasons. She says she still loves teaching skills, but her focus now is on her nine-month old, and her first grade students in South Portland, where they’re anxious to hear all about her Hall of Fame resume.
“When I look back, I look at all the opportunities that my parents gave me,” she said. “Those opportunities not only made me a better person but also a better player. I was able to practice and I was able to go to as many games as I could. Just thinking about how successful I was in high school and how successful I was in college, is all attributed to having those opportunities to practice and to work hard and having good role models that always said, ‘Do the best that you can.’ That drive not only came from my personality but also from the situations I’ve been in in my family environment.”