Regis Beaulieu scaled mountains around the globe for 35 years, but he gave up mountaineering in 2010 after several close calls and needed another outlet to stay in shape — and on the ground.

Regis Beaulieu with his medals after competing in a Masters competition at the Armory in New York City. Regis Beaulieu photo

The 71-year-old Turner resident now maintains his competitive edge by throwing the hammer and weight — just like he did at the University of Maine more than five decades ago.

A natural athlete, the retired Lewiston High School wellness teacher, coach and college track standout became a Masters track athlete in his age group in just a short time. His performance at a recent USATF 2022 Indoor Masters National Championships at the historic Armory in New York City boosted his rankings as a Master athlete.

“That throw was 16.77 meters (55 feet, 2 inches) placed me second in my age group,” Beaulieu said. “On MastersRankings.com, I am currently second in the world in both the weight throw and the super weight throw (56 pounds) in my age group.

“Many consider my efforts as extraordinary as I am under 6 feet tall (and my) weight (is) under 200 pounds. With my state, New England and National Collegiate Olympic Weight Lifting credentials (two bronze medals, All-American), pound for pound, I was one of the best throwers around. My goal is to continue throwing and establishing myself as one of the best throwers in the world in the Masters age categories.”

The past winter, with permission of Bates College, Beaulieu ventured out into the morning cold and shoveled or snowblowed the throwers circle and course on the school’s campus to train in bitter winter temperatures.

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“I am always looking for purpose. I am always looking to stay in shape,” he said. “So I started to train nine months ago. I liked what I was doing, so I entered the meets.

“My indoor season this year, I was the Maine champion. I was the New England champion and I just got back from the Armory in New York City. What an incredible venue. This is where the Millrose Games (are) and here I am watching the National Anthem with a tear in my eye — and I am going to participate against the best in my age group and I won two silver medals.”

Equally fascinating and impressive is Beaulieu’s journey to becoming a Black Bear track standout and the friends he reunited with along the way to becoming a strong competitor in Masters competition.

LONG AND WINDING ROAD

Beaulieu did not participate in track and field programs at Waterville Senior High School. He was captain of the football and baseball teams and played basketball for the Purple Panthers.

After high school, the University of Maine came knocking.

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“I got recruited by the legendary (football) coach Walter Abbott up at Orono. Somehow, I caught his eye,” Beaulieu said. “He started to call me up during the summers and he persuaded me to go to the University of Maine to play football up there.”

During Beaulieu’s first year at Maine, he discovered freshmen were not allowed to play for the varsity football team. So he joined 120 other hopefuls and tried out for the freshman team.

Regis Beaulieu unleashes the hammer while training at Bates College in during the winter. Jane Jawor photo

“I captained the team and led the team in tackles, and I was ready to (compete) for a starting job my sophomore year,” he said.

But Beaulieu suffered a career-ending neck injury in his first varsity game against Boston University.

“So I go from the top candidate of the freshman class to I am done for the rest of my life,” he said. “(Abbott) brings me into his office and said, ‘Reg, you are too good an athlete not to do something at the University of Maine. Maine needs you.’ We have to find something for you to do.’ I said, ‘What the hell can I do?’ So after a lengthy discussion, the next day I was on the track team. That’s a true story.”

Beaulieu had a sit-down with the Maine track coach to see where he would fit into the program.

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“I wasn’t good enough to be a Division I sprinter,” he said. “I am not a long-distance runner. I looked over there (during the meeting) and I said, ‘That looks interesting. What is that?”

The coach told Beaulieu it was the hammer throw.

“‘All right, that’s what I want to do,’” Beaulieu said to the coach. “Circumstance had me become a weight/hammer thrower. In the winter of 1972, that’s when I picked it up.”

He said he worked hard to excel in those throwing events.

Beaulieu said he considered it a privilege to square off against top-notch throwers during his college career.

“I threw against Steve Furness, who graduated from Rhode Island and joined the Pittsburgh Steelers and became part of the Steel Curtain,” Beaulieu said. “I got to throw against some great athletes, but my highlight was when I went to the Coast Guard Academy for the open New Englands. 

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“They had Division I, II and III — the whole nine yards, and I finished fourth there. That fact is, out of the 16 qualifiers, I was the only guy under 6 feet and the only guy under 200 pounds. That was a great memory for me.”

Beaulieu was also an avid weightlifter and added another feather in his cap at Maine.

“I am only the person at the University of Maine-Orono that the university sponsored so I could go to the National Collegiate Olympic Weightlifting Championship — and at that meet I became a two-time All-American, winning two bronze medals,” he said. 

When Beaulieu graduated, he received a degree in health and physical education. After completing a masters degree at Maine, Beaulieu received help from Abbott to get his first job in education.

“My buddy there, Walt Abbott, knew that Mike Haley was coming up looking for coaches, so (Abbott) called me into the office, said, ‘I want you to interview with Mike,'” Beaulieu said.

Haley — who also led programs at Edward Little, Oxford Hills and Rumford — had just been hired as Lewiston’s football coach and needed assistants.

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“Mike hired me on the spot. I am so glad that I had great people like that in my life — and Mike was one of those guys,” Beaulieu said.

Beaulieu taught and coached at Lewiston for 35 years and also did a coaching stint at Bates College.

OLD HOME DAYS

An invitation from an old friend to the watch him compete in a Senior Olympics in Scarborough sparked Beaulieu’s curiosity about competitions featuring older adults. Beaulieu was impressed by athletes who would not let age stand in their way of competing.

“Then I went over in the javelin area, and who is throwing — Steve Pelletier,” Beaulieu said. “I hadn’t seen him in 30 years. I am going crazy now because he’s like a blood brother. Sure enough, it was like yesterday, once we started talking. He inspired me (to compete).

“(Pelletier) is quite a legend himself. He is quite an athlete, that guy. That goes way back. We are both UMO graduates and both played sports there. Our schedules worked out so that as throwers, we used to work out in the same area to throw in the same time frame. We spent hours and hours in the throwing circles. He’d be throwing the javelin and I’d be throwing the hammer, and another good friend (Bill Hamlin) would be throwing the discus.”

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Pelletier, a javelin thrower and an assistant coach for the Scarborough track teams, suggested Beaulieu start competing in throwing events again. The former Lewiston coach began seriously thinking about it and began looking at other venues before he came upon USA Track and Field, which also sponsors events like Masters.

“(Regis) has always been naturally kind of strong, and, of course, he coached track so he didn’t get away from the sport at Lewiston High School,” Pelletier said. “I think it’s fantastic (he is competing). He competed in one meet last fall (for the) Twilight Throwers, somewhere in Massachusetts. Right there, he threw the hammer and all of a sudden got ranked 10th in the U.S. in his age group. He is doing fantastic.”

Pelletier said he was happy to help steer Beaulieu back to the throwers circle.

“(Regis) is very, very dedicated to refining his (throwing) technique in his event,” Pelletier said. “We would always be the last three (to leave) at UMaine’s outdoor practice. So we had the greatest time in college. Almost 50 years later, we are back at it. Great to see (Regis) back involved.” 

Beaulieu said the Masters, which is different from the Senior Olympics, begins at age 30 and goes all the way to 104 years old.

“Now they have got competition from all over the United States all year round,” Beaulieu said. “The competition, if you want it, it is there. It is the best in America at the Masters level. I am pretty much invested and focused on USA Track and Field. I am going to compete in the Senior Olympics, too, because it is fun to do.”

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He acknowledges that aches and pains hound him during training and competitions.

Regis Beaulieu and Jane Jawor stand together after competing in a Twilight Throwers competition in Chelmsford, Mass. Jane Jawor photo

“It is all about staying healthy,” he said. “I can’t tell you how much I hurt. The training alone is almost debilitating at times. You have to put the time and the work in, and when you are in your 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s, it gets harder and harder.”

Along the way, he and one of his high school proteges at Lewiston High School, Jane (Woodhead) Jawor, who went on to compete for the University of Tennessee and became an All-American — met again by chance at the Bates’ throwers circle the past August. They have been training ever since and traveling to competitions together.

“Her senior year, she won the National Indoor Shot Put Championship,” he said. “In the spring of her senior year, I brought her down to the Junior Nationals. She won the javelin. She was second in the discus. She made the Junior Nationals and went to Athens, Greece and was 11th in the world in Javelin.”

Jawor, who hadn’t seen Beaulieu since she was 18, embraces “coming full circle” with a coach she admires and cherishes.

Jawor said Beaulieu has faced life-threatening situations during his treacherous climbs to the top of mountains.

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“So he stopped mountaineering, and (Masters competitions) are such a great find for him, as far as purpose,” she said. “He loves the throws. After mountaineering, you still miss the physical challenges, so this has been a really nice (venue) for him to train for something because mountaineering, you have to really train for that.”

Jawor applauds Beaulieu for his a diligence and marvels at his work ethic.

“Reg is just an incredible person,” she said. “I am really excited for him that he got some recognition for his efforts and his goal and his drive. He does not miss a workout ever. It has been great for me because I also don’t miss (a workout) unless it is something I can’t get out of.

“It becomes very difficult to find a team with training partners to belong to. Finding a throws partner has been just a real gift for both of us. It has been a journey and an experience neither one of us will forget.”


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