WATERVILLE — Jared Beers didn’t plan on running for the Colby College track and field team, but a few weeks before he was to report to campus for preseason football workouts in the fall 1997 as a first-year student, Beers, a Kittery native, took a call from Jim Wescott.
“I doubt it was on purpose, but he a little bit, sort of insulted me. I told my times, and he said â€˜Those are OK times,’ and in my mind I’m like, â€˜Those are great,’” said Beers, now the men’s cross country and track and field coach at Colby. “He definitely challenged me. It was a very effective strategy, because I was like, â€˜oh I have to prove myself now.’ “
On Wednesday, members of Colby College’s athletic staff remembered Wescott, who coached cross country and track and field at the school for 25 years, from 1978 to 2003.
Wescott, 71, of Belfast, died Tuesday when he drowned in a Camden lake.
Wescott was sculling with a friend on Megunticook Lake Tuesday morning, when, authorities believe, he suffered a medical emergency and fell in the water. His body was recovered Tuesday night, about 12 hours after he fell in.
Wescott was the father of Seth Wescott, of Carrabassett Valley, who won the Olympic gold medal in snowboardcross in 2006 and 2010.
Those who knew and worked with Wescott at Colby remembered him as a kind man who fit in perfectly on the small Colby campus.
“He had good life perspective, said Marcele Zalot, Colby’s athletic director. “For a young administrator like myself, or a lot of young coaches up and down the hallway, they were always in his office just talking about stuff.
“He was such a warm, genuine and easy person to connect with. It was just natural.”
Mark Serdjenian, who recently stepped down after 38 years as Colby’s men’s soccer coach added, Wescott “was the right blend of knowledgeable coach and caring guy, which is pretty perfect at our level.”
“He was the ideal NESCAC (New England Small College Athletic Conference)/Division III coach.”
A 2001 Colby graduate, Beers became the head men’s cross country and track and field coach in 2006. Wescott was a great resource, Beers said.
“I was an interim coach for a year, and he actually came in three days a week and helped recruit for me. He stopped by all the time. He was around often and would stop in and check in,” Beers said. “There would almost always be a message on my phone when I’d come in on Monday morning, after he’d looked at (meet) results. The best mentor you could have.”
Zalot remembered Wescott playing hide and seek with her then-young son Owen, now a freshman in high school, in the fitness center.
“He was a super shy kid. He was in the building with me a lot when he was young, and Jim Wescott was one of the few people that Owen would go in his office and talk to,” Zalot said. “(Wescott) sort of broke the ice with him.”
Wescott came to Colby after nine years as head coach of men’s cross country and track and field at North Carolina State. A native of Dover, N.H., Wescott wanted to be closer to home. Under Wescott’s direction, the Colby men’s cross country team won conference titles in 1987, 1990 and 1993. Wescott’s Mules won the first-ever NESCAC men’s outdoor track and field championship in 1986. Wescott was named New England Division III track and field coach of the year in 2003.
His colleagues at Colby said they’ll remember the good man more than they’ll remember the coach.
“It was evident in the way he lived, relationships matter,” Beers said. “It’s the example he set and that’s absolutely how he lived his life, being a good person, fostering relationships.”
“You think of the people in your life who are at the upper echelon, Jim Wescott is absolutely in that group. He might be just slightly short of my father,” said Zalot, who met Wescott when she came to Colby in 1997 as an associate athletic director.
Serdjenian said he and Wescott would discuss issues like team management. Wescott’s strength was helping his athletes grow and develop as people.
“Did you help them become better men in those four years? I think he’s safe there. That’s his legacy to me,” Serdjenian said.
Beers just completed his eighth season as men’s cross country and track and field coach at Colby. He said Wescott will be a role model his entire career.
“For me, he’s been an extremely inspiring example. When I took this job, I was excited to try and follow in his footsteps and be at least a little bit of the kind of person he was,” Beers said. “Being a good person, as vague as that sounds, is central to everything we do on this team. It makes us who we are as a group. It’s a group I’m extremely proud of, and I know he was proud of, too. That all comes from him. All of it. He showed me how much good simply being positive and nice, how much that can do.”