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Transportation board member Bruce Sweeney
honored for gift to Lewiston track & field

Provided KLEW-TV, Lewiston
LEWISTON - Work to renovate Lewiston High School's track and field facility is moving right along.
A new terraced seating area at the Vollmer Bowl looks like it will quadruple the number of seats for track fans.
The project is set to be finished before school starts late this summer. But more impressive than the new seating capacity is the generosity that made the project possible.
Bruce Sweeney served 20 years in the Idaho Legislature. He is also a 1949 Lewiston High grad, a UI grad and was a track star all the way up through his time with the Air Force.
Sweeney, 77, has been diagnosed with terminal bone cancer, but his lifelong love for track and field compelled him to cut the school district a $50,000 check, for what he saw as a much-needed renovation.
"It should enhance the track and make it so that we can hold some major meets here, and it should make it into a first class facility, and that was important to me," said Sweeney, who was visiting the track Wednesday.
Sweeney's passion for track and field started while a student at Lewiston High School where he was active in the sport.
During his college career at the University of Idaho from 1951-1953, Sweeney was Idaho’s all-time top scorer in track and field, as well as the university’s record holder in the 120-yard high hurdles and 220-yard low hurdles. He had his best season in 1953 when he went undefeated during the regular season in his events and won Pacific Coast Conference Northern Division titles in the high and low hurdles, as well as the broad jump.
Monday, the Lewiston School District Board of Directors gave Sweeney something far more important to the man than money. They gave him, and his late wife, the track.
From now on, Bengal track and field athletes will be competing on the Bruce and Marilyn Sweeney Track and Field at the Vollmer Bowl.
"It's not something I expected, and I've always wanted to do something for the track, and this gave me the opportunity to do that. That just seemed like the best thing that I could do. And I'm just grateful that they think enough of me for that," a tearful Bruce Sweeney said.

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Provided by the Lewiston Tribune
LEWISTON - As he watched crews at work on Lewiston High School's track and field, Bruce Sweeney seemed pleased with the progress.

"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."

Published 7-17-09