Provided KLEW-TV, Lewiston
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Provided by the Lewiston Tribune
"They're reshaping the whole bank so it looks decent," said the longtime track supporter and former state lawmaker. "This track has been here for years and there's no place to sit, but this will help. I think it'll look pretty good when it's done."
The upgraded facility will also bear his name, which caught the project's primary benefactor by surprise.
"I certainly didn't expect this. I'm humbled. It's kind of nice to leave a legacy."
The Bruce and Marilyn Sweeney Track and Field at Vollmer Bowl became the track's official name this week, when the Lewiston School Board voted to honor the 77-year-old Lewiston resident and his late wife, who died in January. A dedication ceremony will take place when the project is completed next month.
"We received a recommendation from the track coach and athletic director, along with about 30 e-mails from community members, advocating we do that," said Dan Rudolph, school board chairman.
"I was crazy happy to go along with those recommendations because of the history that I personally got to see Bruce have with the school district. He was a volunteer coach for football and track, and he taught me to pole-vault. Bruce was one of the community leaders I admired during his years in the Legislature. He and his wife have always been advocates for education and Lewiston."
In addition to a record-breaking track and field career, Sweeney was a pilot in the Air Force, operated a building supply business, served 20 years in the Legislature and was a member of the Lewiston School Board.
Now battling bone cancer, Sweeney said his wish has been to make contributions to the school district, University of Idaho and Lutherhaven church camp. He recently donated $50,000 to the high school to fund the landscaping project. The improvements will increase seating and allow the school to host larger meets, he said.
"It's an ideal place because it is in a bowl and protected from the wind. It's a great facility."
He should know. He's spent countless hours there and has lived next door since 1968. His passion for the sport dates to the late 1940s, when he was a student at Lewiston High School.
"When I moved to Lewiston in the spring of my sophomore year, I turned out for track. At the first track meet, my name wasn't on the list to compete. After convincing the coach I had been practicing, he let me enter the high jump, and I won it."
Sweeney went on to become Idaho's all-time top scorer in track and field as an athlete at the University of Idaho, as well as the college's record holder in the 120-yard high hurdles and 220-yard low hurdles. After college, Sweeney was a finalist at the 1956 U.S. Olympic trials in the 400-meter hurdles, and later became an official and starter at the Idaho State High Track and Field Championships and helped coach at Lewiston.
"That's been my life. It's a wonderful sport because there's probably a place for everybody, if they really want to work at it. The reason I liked it is the only one you had to depend on is you. You're either there or you're not there."
Tim Sperber, Lewiston's athletic director, said Sweeney's support for track and his generous gift to the program are amazing.
"He's giving money so more people can enjoy track and field, and that's his sport. The way he cares about the kids, the coaches, the sport is just phenomenal. He loves to watch, come down and be a part of it. To have him as a Bengal is awesome."