Four area standouts join Auburn-Lewiston Hall of Fame

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John Hersom, left, Tammy Jacques, second from left, and Dr. Ron Chicoine listen to Bryan Lambert tell a story Sunday afternoon at the Ramada Inn and Conference Center in Lewiston prior to the start of the Auburn/Lewiston Sports Hall of Fame annual banquet where all four were inducted.

LEWISTON — Paul Jacques said anyone who has ever trained with his sister Tammy probably has a similar story.

“We were out running, probably 20 years ago now,” he recalled. “She’d been swimming for an hour before, and then we went out running. And we were running snowmobile trails in the winter, probably for about an hour, and were just about done, and I’m ready to call my mother to come pick us up or something. And she’s (Tammy) running backwards, going, ‘You’re doing great, PJ.’

“She just never quit, but it was certainly a motivator for everybody around her. She’s always been like that.”

Paul Jacques introduced Tammy Jacques as she was inducted into the Auburn-Lewiston Hall of Fame on Sunday at the Ramada Inn Convention Center.

Tammy Jacques was one of four members of the 2017 class, the 34th for the Auburn-Lewiston Hall of Fame, along with Ron Chicoine, John Hersom and Bryan Lambert.

Tammy Jacques

Auburn-Lewiston Hall of Fame chairman Jack Kivus pointed out that Tammy Jacques is a bit of an anomaly in the hall of fame, because she wasn’t receiving the honor for participating in one of the common sports, such as football, basketball, baseball or hockey.

Instead, Jacques rode bikes.

When Jacques was nominated for the hall of fame, the board researched her career and found three complete pages of awards and accomplishments.

“We started looking and seeing she’s not just a local bicycle rider, she rides all over the country, she rides all over the world, she wins awards all over the world,” Kivus said.

Later, after Kivus ran down a list of some of Jacques’ accomplishments, he said, “I don’t know what took her so long to get in.”

Jacques traveled all the way to Sunday’s induction from Colorado, where she has lived for more than 20 years.

After graduating from Edward Little High School, where she competed in swimming and track and field, she earned a degree from the University of Utah.

Then she embarked on a cycling career that took her all over the world. First as a road racer, for which she was a member of the United States National Team three times. Then she became one of the best mountain bikers in the world, and even was an alternate for the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.

“I’m so proud to be from the Auburn-Lewiston area,” she said. “I love coming back here.

“I’m always going to be an Auburn native. Whenever I tell people I’m from Maine, they say I’m so lucky and so fortunate, and when you move away, you realize how fortunate you are to truly be a Mainer — a Mainah, I should say.”

Jacques said the things she learned while growing up and playing sports in Auburn impacted her throughout her sports career.

“Those kind of skills carried me through my career in cycling,” she said. “The teamwork, always striving to become better as a person, as a teammate, to see the world and appreciate various cultures.”

After several years away due to unknown illness, Jacques returned to competitive cycling in 2010. She also competes in Nordic skiing.

Paul Jacques said Tammy became a mentor, and that she always made family a high priority. She even would delay national TV interviews after competitions in order to hug family members.

“Growing up with her was certainly challenging,” Paul Jacques said. “She never, ever let her brothers win at anything. From Monopoly to Easter egg hunts to swimming laps in the pool. She’s just a competitor.

“But she didn’t gloat about it or anything, she just found out how to be the best at something and worked hard at improving herself, and she still does that.”

Ron Chicoine

Like Jacques, Chicoine is still competing in his sport, tennis. Chicoine came back home for Sunday’s induction ceremony after playing in a national tournament in Idaho on Saturday.

Tennis was initially a family thing, but soon Chicoine went to play with the Lewiston Recreation Department.

Playing with Lewiston Rec provided one of the lasting images from his youth, when he showed up at a tournament in Portland with a gallon of water and “my one racket that, you know, was falling apart; I had a pair of gym shorts I stole from the Lewiston Rec basketball program so I could have shorts.”

An opponent from Cape Elizabeth pulled up in a Mercedes driven by his mom. He had four rackets and a powder-blue Adidas outfit.

“I was so impressed. I’m like, ‘Wow … That guy’s good,’” Chicoine said.

“A lot of my coaches, my mom, would say, ‘On the court, it doesn’t matter what you look like, it’s how you play and how you compete.’ And I was always very competitive, and I ended up beating that guy that day, and it carried on later on in life.”

Chicoine’s dad, Rene, became the Lewiston High School coach. Rene was raving about Ron to his team, including sophomore Russ Dillingham.

“I had just made the singles team,” Dillingham said. “I thought I was all it.”.

One day, Rene brought Ron to practice, where he faced off against Dillingham.

“I beat him that day, just barely.,” Dillingham, who introduced Chicoine on Sunday. “I remember him coming onto the court pretty shy, but once he got on the court, he was on the balls of his feet, like a young puppy dog with his eyes wide open. He ran down every single ball, and he just never, ever gave up.

“That’s something he’s taken along in his career as both a coach and a player.”

Dillingham later said, “I think I’ve probably beaten him a handful of times since.”

After graduating from Lewiston High School, Chicoine went on to play at the University of Maine at Orono. Soon after finishing with the Black Bears, he served as their interim coach for a season.

Chicoine later coached at Lewiston, where his teams won eight state championships and earned a record of 137-2.

As a Sun Journal photojournalist, Dillingham was able to see Chicoine’s Blue Devils often.

“His teams were always prepared, mentally and physically,” Dillingham said. “That’s one of the reasons his teams won all those state championships.”

Chicoine’s coaching career also includes stops at the University of Southern Maine and Bates College, where he currently is an assistant.

Chicoine became an anesthesiologist and has participated in medical missions to Honduras and Haiti in 2010 after the devastating earthquakes. Experiences such as those has helped put sports in perspective for Chicoine.

“Sports is great, but there’s a lot of other things that are important, too,” he said.

John Hersom

As the current head football coach at Lawrence High School, it’s little surprise Hersom had a message for the young athletes honored during Sunday’s ceremony.

“Have strong character, work ethic, drive and passion,” he said. “Value being part of a team and the relationships built with teamwork and working together for something bigger than yourself. Honor and respect those who have wisdom, pay attention and listen to the values, their experiences, insights and advice.”

Hersom grew up dreaming about playing for Edward Little’s football team, which was coached by his dad, Lawrence “Doc” Hersom.

That dream came true for he and his twin brother, Jim, when they moved to Auburn before their sophomore year.

Hersom said last week that the Red Eddies seniors were welcoming of the Hersom boys and their talented sophomore classmates.

One of those seniors, John Morin, said Sunday that wasn’t entirely accurate. He said that back then there were only 40 uniforms, so only the best 40 players out of 60 or 70 dressed for games.

There was griping about the Hersoms receiving playing time because of their dad, but, Morin said, they earned those spots.

They and the other sophomores proved as much when they won back-to-back state championships in 1976 and 1977.

“I would like to say I had some small part in preparing John for what was to come,” Morin, who introduced Hersom on Sunday, said. “But I was more thankful that he was not an offensive or defensive lineman, because it could have been me he put on the bench. John was that good.”

After their playing days at Edward Little, Hersom and Morin again became teammates on the University of Maine’s football team.

When they were back in Auburn, they became training partners.

“His work ethic and desire to succeed brought high intensity to our daily workouts,” Morin said. “But more importantly came an opportunity to share the playing field with him once again as his teammate.”

Like his father, Hersom became a high school football coach, starting with Morse, then Messalonskee and now Lawrence. In 2006, Hersom coached Lawrence, a team that featured three of his sons, to the state championship.

Morin said that Hersom’s teams have toughness, refuse to lose and give 100 percent on every down.

“They are John out on the field,” Morin said. “They play the game with passion. Doc used to call it that fire in the belly.

“It was put there by their coach.”

Bryan Lambert

Mike Francoeur introduced Lambert and called him “my all-time favorite player.”

Their relationship, which began more than 20 years ago, got off to what could have been a rocky start. Francoeur was the basketball coach at Edward Little, and Lambert was a freshman on the varsity team.

The first game of that season, Francoeur suspended Lambert for turning in his season goals a day late.

Talking about it last week, Francoeur called it minor thing. Rather than hold it against his coach, Lambert took it as a learning experience.

“Lessons like that, the tough love, and the no-nonsense approach that Coach Francoeur had were just very impactful,” Lambert said Sunday. “Besides all the things he did to make me a better basketball player, he made me a better man.”

Lambert was a three-sport standout at Edward Little. He pitched and played other positions for the baseball team, played quarterback for the football team, and was one of the best basketball players in the state as a senior (Francoeur still believes he should have been Mr. Basketball in 2000).

He went on to play basketball and baseball at Brandeis University, and then was a pitcher in the Washington Nationals’ minor league system.

Lambert also grew up playing sports in Auburn, and he took time to name and express appreciation to several of his coaches.

“I really don’t believe in individual accomplishments,” Lambert said. “I think that we’re all put in places that we get recognized based on the support systems we have around us and the people we have in our lives.

“And, being back here today, I don’t come to Auburn as much as I wish I did … but I’m reminded of how important this place was to me.”

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