William Hood, Raymond DeBlois, Pete Couture and Carolyn Court were inducted into the Auburn Lewiston Hall Of Fame Sunday afternoon at a banquet held at the Ramada Inn in Lewiston.(Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)

LEWISTON — Lewiston soccer coach Mike McGraw took a moment during the Auburn-Lewiston Sports Hall of Fame banquet to express how proud he was that Edward Little’s girls’ and boys’ basketball teams both won state championships earlier this year.

“I think I was as thrilled as anybody when two Edward Little teams won a state championship,” McGraw said. “And I’ve always said, if Lewiston can’t win it, then Auburn can win one and we can keep it in our community.”

McGraw was one of six coaches receiving an LA Metro Chamber President’s Award for coaching the Blue Devils to a state title during the fall.

Edward Little senior soccer player and pole vaulter Alex Thompson, who also received a President’s Award, thanked McGraw for building the Lewiston program and upping the level of soccer competition in the twin cities.

Auburn and Lewiston, often fierce rivals, came together to honor the individual and team athletic — both past and present — achievements of both cities.

Carolyn Court, Pete Couture, Ray DeBlois and Jim Hood — the four inductees that make up the 35th Auburn-Lewiston Hall of Fame class — were the stars of Sunday’s ceremony. But just as celebrated was the athletic influence that crosses over from both sides of the Androscoggin River.

While the cities may be separate, their sports scenes often are not. The close proximity makes Auburn and Lewiston natural rivals, but most of the 2018 A-L Hall of Fame inductees have been heavily involved with sports on both sides.

Hood played at Lewiston High School, and coached at Lewiston, Edward Little and Bates. He was introduced at Sunday’s ceremony by an Edward Little graduate, Ricky Miles.

DeBlois was a youth hockey coach in the community after his playing days.

Court has coached track and field and cross country coach at Lewiston and Bates College. She also helped run the Auburn Running Club, which taught kids ages 6-15 the fundamentals of track and field.

The trailblazer

Of course, Court has never been limited by boundaries.

“My mother always said that I could be whatever I wanted to be,” Court said, “and encouraged me to fight for opportunities, or to create them if they did not exist.”

Her Connecticut high school didn’t have a girls’ track and field team, but she still ran track. She didn’t even let the fact that she couldn’t practice with the boys stop her.

After running for Southern Connecticut State University she became a college coach, even though some mentors advised her to settle for being a physical education teacher instead. She went on to coach at Bates for 25 years, and is still helping student-athletes as an assistant for the Lewiston track team.

Bowling into the spotlight

Couture grew up in Auburn, where he became a standout bowler.

“I was in awe, because I could never be as good as him,” Gerry Dennison, who introduced Couture, said.

The 1963 Edward Little graduate left Maine to follow his dreams, and eventually made it on the national scene — and national TV — on the Pro Bowlers Tour.

Success, though, didn’t come easy, and it didn’t come quick. But eventually it came for Couture, and the A-L Hall is the sixth hall of fame into which he has been inducted.

“I took a lot of lumps and persevered and was fortunate enough to get here,” Couture said.

Playing to win

DeBlois grew up in Lewiston and helped St. Dominic Academy win two state championships (1986 and 1988) in ice hockey.

He also won an NCAA Division III championship at Plattsburgh State University in 1992, and played in three final fours in four seasons.

“I’m not one for personal accolades,” DeBlois said. “I was more of a team player. If I played more or less, or whatever, it didn’t matter to me. I never put myself first, I just wanted to win. That’s my highlight, winning state championships and winning at the national level.”

Supported by many

Hood was a three-sport standout at Lewiston High School before playing fullback for the University of Maine.

Several years after returning to the twin cities, Hood became a football coach, with stops at Edward Little, Lewiston and Bates.

He also became a girls’ basketball coach, first as an assistant to niece Val Brown Ackley (also an A-L Hall of Famer) at Oxford Hills and Edward Little, and later as the head coach at Lewiston.

He credits the support he had from others for his achievements, from the Shank Street neighborhood that he grew up in, to his teammates and coaches — both those who coached him and those he coached alongside. And, of course, his family.

“The bulk of my support has always come from my family — as you can see, there’s two tables full of them,” Hood said. “I never played an athletic event where one family member, or many, were not at the game. And that’s even in college.”

Honoring the present

Lewiston and Auburn’s three high schools have produced five state championships so far in the 2017-18 school year: Lewiston boys’ soccer (coached by McGraw), St. Dom’s field hockey (Brian Kay and Jennifer Brown), Edward Little boys’ (Mike Adams) and girls’ (Chris Cifelli) basketball, and Lewiston boys’ hockey (Jamie Belleau).

The coaches of those teams were all honored with President’s Awards, as were three college and 12 high school athletes.

The college athletes are: Mary Caron (St. Dom’s), who played soccer at UConn before transferring to the University of Southern Maine and playing softball; Lauren Lessard (Lewiston), who played lacrosse at USM; and Marley Byrne (St. Dom’s), a track athlete at Villanova University.

The high school athletes honored: Ryan Bossie, Taylor Chamberlain, Maddie LeBlone and Stephanie Rodrigue of Lewistion; Grant Hartley, Grace McBride, Tyler Morin, Piper Norcross and Alex Thompson of Edward Little; and Markella Gammaitoni, Caroline Gastonguay and Hannah Trottier-Braun of St. Dom’s.

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