The Easton Express
Don C. Smith former Presque Isle teacher, coach, athletic director was born in Presque Isle September 25, 1918. Even though the farm he grew up on was in Presque Isle he attended Easton Schools and later graduated from the University of Maine in 1940. He was always an outstanding athlete in high school playing baseball and basketball and also won many ski and snowshoe events which was popular at the time. On snowshoes he raced to a state record in the 100 yard dash. He was also undefeated on snowshoes in the 100, 440 and mile in both his junior and senior years.
While attending Easton High School they did not offer track but did have cross-country which he really enjoyed. He loved to run and while working on the farm he developed a strong body from hours of daily work. In his junior year he probably would have won the state meet if not for an accident. While staying at Orono the night before the race and walking home from the movies he was struck by a car and ended up in the hospital. In his senior year he won the cross country title in Houlton.
While at Easton High School he earned varsity letters four consecutive years in four different sports.
Don went on to the University of Maine in 1936 and participated in track and cross-country. It did not take him long to find success, that fall he won the freshman race at the New England Cross Country Championship. He went on to win the New England Intercollegiate Cross Country Championship at the varsity level three consecutive years.
He also fared well in the IC4A cross country as well. He placed sixth as a freshman, fourth as a sophomore, third as a junior and fifth as a senior. He also enjoyed success in track, in his sophomore year he broke the University of Maine mile record by more than six seconds with a a time of 4.19.4. Don went on to win three straight state meets in the 880 and mile land added five individual New England track championships in these events. In one New England championship meet at New Hampshire during his junior year he won both the mile and 880 tying meet records in both events (4:18.6 and 1:54.4 respectively).
In the IC4A track and field championships, Smith Placed second in his senior year in the mile. In other national level competition, in 1939 he was invited to compete in the NCAA Championships in Los Angeles and, among a field of 21 in the mile he took 6th, running his fastest mile ever, 4:13. That was only fives seconds off the world record for the mile. On that same trip in Lincoln. Nebraska he took second in the mile in the National Junior AAU meet on July 3. The following day he entered the Senior AAU mile and competed against the world mile record holder Glenn Cunningham. Cunningham took fourth in the event and Smith fifth.
Don Smith was considered one of the best middle distance runners in the nation during the late 1930’s. He would likely have competed in the Olympics if World War II had not come along. In 1946, while playing baseball for the Easton town team he was in the processing of fielding a ground ball at third base and the base-runner threw a body block on him that injured his knee. He would never run again.
Later in his life he was inducted into the University of Maine Sports Hall of Fame (1986), Maine Sports Hall of Fame (1991), and the Maine Running Hall of Fame (1997). He also received many honors in college; he was chosen Sophomore Owl and Senior Skull, he received the Pale Blue Key Scholarship, he held offices in Men’s Student Senate, Inter-fraternity Council, M Club and Maine Athletic Association. He joined Phi Eta Kappa fraternity and served as president his senior year.
Don Smith farmed, taught high school and coached for 28 years. He taught in Mars Hill, Easton and Presque Isle. He coached a variety of sports including basketball, skiing, track and was athletic Director at Presque Isle High School for twelve years. He retired from teaching in 1978.
He was married to Glenn Johnson Smith and they had three children; Steve, Byron (Barney) and Mel. He was also married a second time to Elza Osgood Smith.
Information for this article was provided by the Maine Running Hall of Fame and Maine Sports Hall of Fame websites as well as the Mark and Emily Turner Memorial Library. If you wish to comment on this article call me at 207-764-1217 or the Presque Isle Star Herald.