Mt. Blue inducts inaugural Athletics Hall of Fame members

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FARMINGTON – Mt. Blue High School inducted nine individuals and one team in its first ever Athletics Hall of Fame induction ceremony on January 7. 

The school, which opened in 1968, has upheld a rich tradition of athletic success over the last 54 years. As athletic director Cynthia Pratt mentioned in her opening remarks, this recognition was “long overdue.” 

The Hall of Fame Committee worked tirelessly leading up to the ceremony to gather information, contact inductees, collect statistics and put together the logistics for the event today. Former Mt. Blue athletic director Chat Brackett, Mt. Blue school business manager James Black, and Hall of Fame Committee member Roger Bolduc led the charge in the establishment of this program. Liz LeClair and Jake Bogar also worked hard to create the event, organizing the reception and more. Mt. Blue’s pre-engineering class, taught by Bogar, created plaques to commemorate the inductees. The plaques will be situated on the new space dedicated to the Hall of Fame inductees outside of the gymnasium. 

The inductees are broken down into several categories: contributors, athletes, coaches, and teams. For the 2023 inaugural ceremony, two contributors, five athletes, three coaches and one team were inducted.

For contributors, Paul Sproul and Robert Stevens Sr. were inducted. Sproul was a figurehead in Mt. Blue athletics in a variety of roles, including football official, umpire, and field maintenance expert to name a few. For over 30 years, “Bucky” was a constant presence in both youth and varsity sporting events throughout Franklin County. 

“Bob” Stevens was at the helm of athletics when Mt. Blue High School came to be. Stevens helped create many of the school’s sport programs, created the cougar mascot and helped establish the school colors of blue and gold. During Bob’s tenure at Mt. Blue, he was named the first athletic director, a role which he took seriously – dedicating himself to supporting coaches and students. Beyond Mt. Blue, Stevens helped found the original Maine Athletic Association, which is now known as the MIAAA. 

The first athlete inducted is the only male basketball player in Mt. Blue history to win the coveted Mr. Basketball, an award granted to the top senior athlete each year. Mike Adams won this award in 1990, alongside winning Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference (KVAC) Player of the Year and was named to the McDonald’s Senior All-Star team. Adams was known for his dominant playing style. He went on to play at Thomas College. Today, Adams remains involved in the sport of basketball, coaching the basketball team at Edward Little High School. 

Like Adams, Heather Ernest won the Miss Basketball award her senior year. That year, Ernest’s team went on to win their second state title and remain undefeated for the 1999-2000 season. Over her career, Ernest netted over 1000 points and was tabbed one of the best female basketball players in the history of basketball in Maine. 

Dustin Ireland’s skill on the football field led him to be the third athlete induction. Ireland is the only player from Mt. Blue to win the Fitzpatrick Trophy, which is awarded to the state’s best football player.  Ireland set himself apart from other quarterbacks in the state due to his ability to both throw and run the ball. Over his years at Mt. Blue, Ireland set records for most completions in a game and season, and most passing yards in a career and season.

Ryan Leib is, as Black stated, “one of the greatest soccer players to ever sport a Mt. Blue uniform.” Leib holds countless records at Mt. Blue, for the state of Maine, and even nationally. A two time All-State player and 1989 All-American, Leib’s field play made him one of the top players in the state. Beyond his time at Mt. Blue, Leib went on to play professionally and has served as a coach and mentor for the sport of soccer. 

Sam Webber is one of the most successful wrestlers to compete for Mt. Blue. Webber won 144 matches over his career, while only suffering 12 losses. Accolades followed his victorious path, with Webber being named a 4x regional champion and 2x state champion. Webber qualified for the New England Wrestling Championship and placed sixth in his weight class. 

Two legendary Mt. Blue coaches were also inducted into the Hall of Fame. Jim Bessey is a fixture in the Maine basketball community, known for his dynamic coaching and entertaining sideline antics. Throughout his high school coaching career, Bessey won 475 wins, 421 of them coming from his 36 seasons as Mt. Blue’s head coach. Bessey’s team qualified for the state tournament 21 of his last 26 years at Mt. Blue. In 1997, the boys team went on to win the Eastern Maine Championship. Coach Bessey is still involved in the basketball scene, serving as the assistant coach for the University of Maine at Farmington’s men’s basketball team. 

Ray Caldwell served as the Mt. Blue football coach for 21 seasons. Caldwell built a powerhouse, amassing 149 wins and only 53 losses. Under his leadership, Mt. Blue won state championships in 1974, 1975 and 1980. His influence on decades of Mt. Blue players are still felt today. 

The first team to be inducted into the Hall of Fame is the 2000 Girls Basketball State Championship Team. The group finished the season a perfect 22-0, defeating the powerhouse McAuley High School. This team was led by one of the best coaching staffs ever assembled which included Chandler Woodcock, Rachel Austin, Stella McLean and Jon Barry who all put in countless hours coaching to make this all possible.  

The Hall of Fame is sponsored by Origin, with key donations and support from Mt. Blue alumni Pete and Amanda Roberts. For future nominations, forms are available through the district website. 

The Hall of Fame inaugural induction ceremony took place at Mt. Blue High School on Saturday, January 7, between two varsity basketball games. The ceremony was recorded by Mt. Blue TV and may be found with the basketball games, with the ceremony starting at approximately 1 hour and 32 minutes.

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