BAR HARBOR — To Larry Allen, it felt like stepping out of a time machine.
As rain came down around them on a Friday afternoon in downtown Bar Harbor, Allen and his six teammates from the 1972 Mount Desert Island boys’ cross-country team gathered inside the Village Green gazebo. With those in attendance regaling memories of old and filling in one another on happenings anew, the experience provided parallel looks into both the present and a bygone era.
“I did some calculating, and the youngest member on that team has lived for 750 months, and the rest of us are obviously even older than that,” Allen said. “We’ve lived through so much, and those 12-14 weeks we spent together are still indelibly imprinted upon us.”
The members of that 1972 team are, indeed, forever linked to a season in which they became the first state championship-winning squad in school history. Ahead of their 50-year anniversary, they traveled from near and far for a team reunion held Friday on the island they once called (and, in some cases, still do call) home.
Allen (Class of 1973) first floated the idea of a team reunion several years ago. It was first planned for the official 50-year anniversary in 2022, but with some members in ill health, it was moved up a year so that all seven varsity runners (Allen; Mark Carter, Class of 1974; Steve Davis, 1974; Barry Fernald, 1975; Doug Graves 1973; Eddie McFarland, 1974; Brian Murphy, 1974) could attend.
“I would say 60-70 percent of us hadn’t seen each other since [high school],” Allen said. “We wanted a time where we could make sure everyone could come because everyone desperately wanted to be there for this.”
Team members posed for a photo in the same order as they did for their team portrait 49 years ago with Murphy, Graves, Carter and McFarland in front and Fernald, Allen and Davis in back. MDI Athletic Director Bunky Dow then presented the septet with their state championship trophy and banner.
Allen recalled the season, which he went through on a meet-by-meet basis culminating with the team’s state title triumph. He even had gifts for those in attendance as he distributed hats reading, “MDI XC: 1972 State Champs.”
One recipient of a hat was Aaron Long, an assistant coach for the cross-country team and the head coach of the indoor and outdoor track teams. With the MDI boys’ track team just three weeks removed from its state championship win, both the school’s oldest and newest state championship-winning squads were represented.
“I looked at the old photo of the 1972 team after they won, and I saw so many similarities between then and now: youthful, exuberant faces and an immensely proud coach,” Long said. “They are a very special group, and they will never lose their place in history.”
Although the cooler, rainy weather changed the ambiance, it did little to spoil the mood. Many in the packed downtown area stopped by the gazebo to ask what the occasion was, and many on hand stayed around well into the afternoon.
“We were right in the middle of everything, so we had all sorts of people coming up to us to see what was going on,” Allen said. “Even though the forecast wasn’t what he had hoped for, we just kind of rolled with it. It added a layer of atmosphere.”
Eventually, the crowd dispersed, and those who had gathered went their separate ways. Yet in just a few hours, the group had made memories that will be remembered as fondly as those of a half-century earlier.
“It’s amazing how those few weeks have stayed with us,” Allen said. “It really was like time travel, in the weirdest way. It’s great that we could make those new memories to go along with the old.”