Ray Lafreniere talks with student athletes before the start of the 100-meter dash during a middle school track meet at Poland Regional High School last week. Sun Journal photo by Daryn Slover

Lewiston native Bob Legendre, Hebron Academy class of 1918, made the 1920 and 1924 Olympic team for track and field.

After missing the mark in the long jump in 1924, Legendre made the United States Olympic team in the pentathlon. During the pentathlon, Legendre broke the world record in the long jump at 25-5.75.

Legendre ran track at Lewiston High School in the early days of the program before attending Hebron.

The first cross country team at Lewiston wasn’t started until 1937 and at the state meet that year, held at Bates College, Lewiston finished in sixth.

Fast-forward to 1963 when Steve Ross, a 22-year-old Bowdoin College graduate — who attended Pennell Institute in Gray before that — was hired as the track and cross country coach. A freshman on that team was Ray Lafreniere.

Lafreniere is now tracking back and searching for Lewiston alumni that are willing to attend a Lewiston track and field reunion he’s organizing for May 18 at Lewiston’s new track.

According to Lafreniere, track and field was pushed to the back burner until the 1960’s. He remembers when Lewiston finally overcame its cross-bridge rival, a huge moment for the Blue Devils.

“By the time we got to my senior year, Edward Little had won the state championship in ’65 and ’66,” Lafreniere said. “Lewiston hadn’t beat them in like, 25 years. We go over to Walton Field, 70-70 tie in the last event as we tie them in the relay. … The very next week in what they used to call the Andy Valley meet, we crushed them. We won the league and that was kind of a big deal.”

Lewiston and Edward Little have been battling for decades, which makes May 18 an ideal date for the reunion. It’s also the date of the River Rival meet featuring Lewiston, Edward Little, Brewer and Bangor.

“It’s a perfect time,” Lewiston athletic director Jason Fuller said. “With the new track, eight-lane track and it’s in great shape, I think it’s just a good meet and a meet we do every year. There’s a trophy involved, so I think it’ll be a perfect time and everyone will be excited, the alumni and the players.”

Lafreniere is hoping to get in contact with anyone who has competed for the Lewiston track and field team and urges everyone to email him at [email protected] or find his Facebook page “Lewiston High School Track Alumni.”

Lafreniere did a lot of research into Lewiston’s track and field past and found some amazing tidbits.

“1908 was the first time they ever constituted a track meet in Lewiston,” Lafreniere said. “It was kind of a fluke. Bates College used to have a winter carnival and they used to have track meets upstairs in City Hall. Bates would have races up there, sac races, sprints, gymnastic performances. This year they invited high schools to bring a relay team and in this particular race, Lewiston beat Edward Little.”

Ross, who will be attending the reunion, believes indoor track started in 1915 with schools like Portland, South Portland, Deering and other southern teams holding meets.

“We laid out the track in the armory and actually the last time I was there I could still faintly see the corners,” Ross said. “The first year I did it there were some AAU events at the Expo. In 1965 they accepted Lewiston into the league and we started competing at the Expo.”

Ross has been coaching for the majority of his career and is now an assistant for the Scarborough indoor and outdoor track and field teams. Lafreniere also has been involved with coaching for most of his career and was most recently the track and field coach at Whittier Middle School in Poland up until last spring.

Lafreniere also started the Poland Panther summer track program in 1989, which is still going strong today.

The reunion will be starting at 9 a.m. with coffee and doughnuts, followed by a walk around the track at 10 prior to the start of the meet. All Lewiston track and field alumni are invited.

There have already been many people confirming to Lafreniere that they are coming, including some from his track team in the 60’s. Alumni are showing up from all over the country, from Philadelphia to Los Angeles.

“We’d like to put together a pamphlet of what the athletes have done since high school,” Lafreniere said. “So, I would like to get information from people that are coming and I’m trying to put together a booklet of what they’re all doing so that, as a younger guy, the kids might pick something from it and say, ‘Wow, this guy is an attorney, I wonder if I can make contact with this guy and maybe get some clues about what I should be doing.’ If people contact me I can send them the questions I wanted them to answer like, ‘What have you done since high school.’”