BAR HARBOR — Before the walls of Mount Desert Island High School’s Bunny Parady Gymnasium were lined with state championship banners, there was the team that started it all.
After years of athletic success at three separate school districts on the island, athletes from the island came together as one in 1968. A new school needed a new winning tradition, and four years later, the MDI boys’ cross-country team became the first to win a state title.
Nearly five decades have now passed since the 1972 Trojans brought home the first of what would be many state championships for the school. Now, a half-century after their title triumph, the team is set to be commemorated for its pioneering success.
The 1972 MDI boys’ cross-country team will be honored at noon Friday, June 25, at Village Green in Bar Harbor. Members of the squad will be on hand in advance of the 50-year anniversary of the team’s historic state championship win.
“I’ve been in touch with my teammates, and we’ve had this in the works for a few years now,” said Larry Allen, a senior on the 1972 team. “We’re a bit older now, and some of us have health conditions, so we moved it up a year ahead of [the actual 50-year mark]. It worked out astonishingly well.”
MDI began the 1972 season strong as it won nearly every meet in which it competed ahead of the Class B championship meet. Yet the Trojans were considered heavy underdogs going into states as Gorham, the two-time reigning state champion, was the overwhelming favorite to win a third title.
Members of the MDI team, Allen said, found motivation when the Portland Press Herald wrote a meet preview in which it tipped Gorham to breeze to victory. At the starting line, Allen added, Gorham runners seemingly mocked the Trojans, saying, ‘What’s an MDI?’”
“That became almost a team motto for us,” Allen said. “We were a brand-new school, so the ‘MDI’ name hadn’t caught on yet. Even now, if someone says to us, ‘What’s an MDI?’ we’ll know exactly what that means.”
Team members include Allen (Class of 1973), Mark Carter (Class of 1974), Steve Davis (1974), Barry Fernald (1975), Doug Graves (1973), Eddie McFarland (1974) and Brian Murphy (1974). Many of those members would return a year later as the Trojans repeated as state title winners.
Those members now live locally and afar with some still in the MDI area and others living in world cities such as New York and London. They will be presented Friday with their state championship banner and trophy, the firsts of their kinds at MDI High School.
The legacy of the 1972 team has lived on to this day with the school becoming a powerhouse on cross-country and other running sports. MDI has now won a total of 17 championships in boys’ and girls’ cross-country, indoor track and outdoor track, including a boys’ outdoor state title earlier this month.
“It’s great to see those programs still going strong,” Allen said. “MDI really is a great community, and it’s going to be great to come together again to see everybody.”