The Bulldogs are getting back together, half a century after a dominant performance at the New England Swimming & Diving Championship.

Seventeen Portland High swimmers and divers will gather Friday night at Bruno’s Restaurant to celebrate their 1968 state and New England titles, in advance of the PHS Class of 1968 50th reunion weekend.

“They’re coming in from most areas of the country,” said Bob Carter, who helped organize the reunion with Lee Crocker and several other local members of the team. “What sticks out predominantly is how overwhelmingly powerful we were. We were good, but I didn’t realize until years later how good we were compared to everyone else.”

In an era when no freshmen competed at the varsity level and points were awarded to only the top six places, the Bulldogs went 10-0 in dual-meet competition, won the state meet with 106.5 points (to runner-up Bangor’s 47.5) and took the New England championship with 47 points, well ahead of the 29 compiled by runner-up East Longmeadow, Massachusetts.

The Bulldogs broke five meet and pool records and won 7 of 11 events in the state meet. At the New Englands, held at the newly-constructed YMCA pool in Portland, Rodney Paulson won the 200-yard individual medley and the 100 butterfly. Athletes were allowed to compete in only two events, regardless of whether one was a relay.

Other state champions from the team: Dick Lucas in the 200 and 400 freestyle; Phil DiBiase in the 100 freestyle; the 200 medley relay team of Chris Mathisen, B.J. Robinson, Charlie Lord and Carter; and the 400 free relay team of Lee Crocker, Lloyd Crocker, Pete Edwards and Lord.

The New England title was the fifth of five for Portland High under legendary coach Harold Paulson, who also guided the Bulldogs to four regional victories between 1948 and 1951. The only other Maine swim team to win a New England championship was Bangor High in 1975. New Englands became solely an individual competition in 1979.

Lee Crocker remembers Paulson creating four medley relay teams in practice, with each team able to break 1 minute, 56 seconds.

“The state record back then was 1:52,” Crocker said. “We also had 13 swimmers who could break a minute in the 100 freestyle. Not many other teams had more than one or two. It was one of those years where all our talent came together at once.”

Indeed, Portland High went on to win the state title in 1969 and 1970 before Bangor embarked on a five-year run.

On Friday, the men will honor two former teammates who have died, Steve Greenberg and Larry Brett.

DiBiase, Rodney Paulson and Dave Chaplin were the captains. Lucas, Robinson, Mathisen, the Crocker twins (who are not related to Ian, the Olympic gold medalist), Carter, Stephen Branz, Dave Crowley, Jack Ney, Ernie Tarling, Jon Haney, Chuck Redman, Don Gardner, Dave McKenzie and Jim Hayden all plan to attend.

Carter said everyone who was contacted was excited about the opportunity to reconnect, many for the first time since leaving high school.

“Some can’t make it because of health reasons,” he said. “Others had major trips already planned and not changeable, but everybody that wasn’t already ill or engaged is coming.”

Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or

[email protected]

Twitter: GlennJordanPPH

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