Tickets for the Maine Running Hall of Fame induction banquet cost $25. Anybody who attends will be supporting an eminently worthy, and severely cash-strapped, organization. And it must be said, if 2010 inductee Bert Hawkins of Waterville gets up to speak, or if you should fall into conversation with him there, you will judge your money well spent.

Hawkins is not kicking into the Hall solo, but as the fastest guy (KVAC and state champion) on the 1957-58 Waterville High team that went undefeated and pretty much crushed everybody through the New England championships. That team was captained by class president Ted Sack and included Al Veilleux, Wayne Fotter, Wayne Cochrane, Roger Jeans and Carl Cliche. The coached was Clair Wood, the principal.

Speaking of cash-strapped, Hawkins has some perspective on that. The eldest of six kids, he was 8 when his father died of TB contracted in the service in 1949.

“So, things were hard to manage, even though we didn’t realize how poor we were. When I won the first state championship I was wearing the same socks I’d worn to school that day, argyle socks — there’s a photograph of it. I couldn’t afford to buy white socks.

“A lot of us were poor kids and when we won the (New England) championship, we could not believe the attention they paid us,” he continues. “We had lunch with then-Gov. Muskie at the Blaine House, the team members. That was kind of a humbling experience for us. But we realized that we’d probably accomplished something pretty good.”

Hawkins said he started running one day when he observed the Panthers team out training out of the high school, running up towards Colby College and back. He asked Mr. Wood what was going on. Mr. Wood explained that this was cross country.

“Really? Can anybody do it?” The principal/coach said certainly, come on down tomorrow and we’ll outfit you, but Hawkins took off after the others. He was wearing loafers, which kept slipping off, so he removed them. With a shoe in each hand and wearing socks, Hawkins finished with leader Sack, who was surprised to have such company.

“Both heels were completely blistered, so I paid for that bit of folly,” Hawkins remembers.

Three state titles and the New England championship followed. One story from those days Hawkins would like to correct is that once while in the lead, he casually went off-course “to take a whiz,” only to be beaten.

“Now, that never happened. My coach would never have let me run again for being that arrogant and letting someone pass.”

What happened was, he twisted his ankle early in the race, but continued. “The attitude was, if you hurt something, you just ran it off. The philosophy was ‘go run fast.’ I don’t know how we won anything.”

After high school Hawkins enlisted in the Army, planning to serve his three years and then attend the University of Maine. In 1959 he and 32 other guys from the area headed off to Fort Dix. Afterwards, Hawkins found himself in Thule, Greenland, “670 miles from the North Pole, tracking Russian Bear aircraft with my little radar.”

A marrriage, the first of three, derailed his college plans and he spent 38 years in the Army, retiring in 1997 as a colonel.

He pretty much lived out of Maine for 40 years, including a stint near the Bitburg air base in Germany. I asked Hawkins if he was there for Ronald Reagan’s well-publicized visit in 1985, but no.

“The only celebrity I ever saw was Cardinal Spellman from New York,” he said. “He came to see us at the mountain in Greenland. We gave him the tablets and he went back down.”

Hawkins ran noncompetitively for all his 38 years in the service, always making sure to break the 2-mile run requirement for 18-year-olds (14 minutes). “When I was a kid, if I ran over 10 minutes my coach would have killed me.” But having been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, and advised to pay attention to his feet, “I figure hitting the pavement every day is not taking care of my feet.”

He’ll turn 70 in February, he and wife Brenda are enjoying 12 years-and-counting of marital bliss, he still watches races when he can, and remains close to longtime friend/high school competitor/Maine running icon Ron Paquette of Albion (out marathoning in Omaha this weekend), who nominated the team for induction. And he’s looking forward to the Hall occasion.

“An organization of people simply appreciating the achievements of other runners and coaches and that type of thing,” he calls it. “And, poor.”

So, support the MRHOF induction banquet, scheduled for Nov. 14 at Killarney’s at the Holiday Inn in Waterville, beginning with a social hour at noon.

The event is open to the public, but reservations are requested. Hall Chair Skip Howard is the contact, at 30 Richards Road in Glenburn 04401-1239, 947-4836, or [email protected]

Staff Writer John Rolfe is road runner. He can be reached at 791-6429 or at:

[email protected]