An illustration in the Lewiston Evening Journal on the day the Stockholm Olympics got underway in 1912.

As the Olympics get underway in Japan, it’s worth noting that over the years, at least a dozen athletes who attended Bates College have competed in the games, but never has the small Lewiston college had a better showing than it did in 1912.

Vaughn Blanchard is pictured in his track and field garb in the 1912 Bates College Mirror yearbook.

At the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, two men from Bates took the field as well as one of its future track coaches, John Johnstone.

Harlen Holden, a rising senior, and Vaughn Blanchard, who had just graduated, boarded the S.S. Finlandia with the rest of the American team to seek victory in Sweden.

The Bates Mirror called it “a rare honor for Bates when we remember the athletes were chosen from the best in the United States.”

As president of his class at Bates, Blanchard left Lewiston after a college career “strewn with broken hearts and broken records,” as his yearbook put it.

But he also won someone’s heart.


Blanchard married two days after graduation. His wife, Zoe, journeyed to Stockholm aboard the Finlandia with him, the only bride along for the trip, The Boston Globe reported.

The newly married athlete had high hopes in Stockholm after placing among the three finalists in the U.S. competition in Boston to make the team as a 110-meter hurdler.

In the Olympics, Blanchard easily qualified for the semifinals but fell short of making the cut for the finals where Americans ultimately swept the medal competition.

It’s not clear how Holden, a rising senior, wound up on the team since he did not earn a spot during the trials in the United States. The college yearbook said Holden went along as “a supplementary man in the runs.”

That a member of Lewiston’s Garcelon family was among the trio of commissioners overseeing the tryouts at Harvard University may have played a role.

However Holden got the chance to compete in Stockholm, he sought to make the best of it.


Harlen Holden is pictured in the 1911 Bates College yearbook with the track team.

Holden ran in the 800-meter competition, snagging a first-place finish in a first-round heat and posting the third fastest time among 47 runners.

In the semifinals, though, Holden fell short of the pace needed to make the final race, where three other American runners claimed the gold, silver and bronze medals.

Holden also played on the U.S. baseball team at the games, where the sport was considered only a demonstration, even though he apparently did not play baseball at Bates. He went hitless in four at-bats, but scored a run, perhaps by reaching the bases on an error.

In the two baseball exhibit games in Stockholm, Blanchard, who played for the Bobcats back in Lewiston, also participated, taking advantage of his one at-bat to slap a single. Unlike Holden, though, he didn’t score.

Johnstone, a Massachusetts native with track and field talent, roomed with Jim Thorpe aboard the Finlandia as it carried the American team to Sweden.

One of 11 finalists, Johnstone came in sixth in the high jump competition.


Thorpe, meanwhile, won gold medals in the pentathlon and decathlon, the two sports then viewed as the ultimate test of athletic skill. Thorpe’s wins made him famous and propelled him to national celebrity for the rest of his life.

Vaughn Blanchard is pictured in his 1912 Bates College Mirror yearbook. Bates Mirror photo

A legendary athlete from Lewiston, Bob Legendre, won the pentathlon in the 1924 Olympics in Paris.

Johnstone returned from Stockholm to attend Harvard, graduating in 1916. He got a job at Bates a few years later as a French instructor and the college’s track coach.

He didn’t stay long, though, because the college had a new coach by 1922. Johnstone got a job coaching in Worcester, Massachusetts.

Blanchard became an educator in Michigan, an advocate for intramural sports and a critic of competition between schools.

Holden became a career military officer, winding up as a U.S. Army Air Force colonel during World War II. His son, a West Point graduate, died in a training crash in 1945.

Runners at the 1912 Olympics are shown in a video produced by the International Olympic Committee. Screenshot from video

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