Presque Isle’s Ralph Sweetser: A Complete Athlete

15 years ago

    Ralph Sweetser, an outstanding basketball player and trackman, came from a family of athletes. His twin brother, Richard, played on the same basketball team as Ralph, and his brother, Lawrence, was a member of the Presque Isle High School team that won the 1928 County Championship.

    Ralph, at 6 feet 5 inches tall, was a giant of a man in the 1930s, with huge hands and he could run like the wind. He devoted much time to perfecting his game and shooting. In his grammar school days, he put up a couple of baskets in his father’s barn on the farm and began honing his skills.
    Ralph’s pursuit of perfection paid dividends as he led the Aroostook League in scoring his junior and senior year. He was very instrumental in leading the Wildcats to two consecutive Eastern Maine Championships in 1931 and 1932. In 1931, he was the leading scorer in the Maine State Tournament and was named second team All-tourney. In the 1931 State Championship game against South Portland, Sweetser scored 22 of Presque Isle’s 29 points in a 34-29 loss at the Lewiston Armory.
    Along with fellow starters Clarence Burnett, Verdelle Clark, Walter Shaw and Harold Glidden, Ralph brought Presque Isle its only boy’s State Championship in 1932 and the first won by an Aroostook team. Sweetser, the third leading scorer in the State tournament, was named to the All-tournament second team. When winning the Eastern Maine Championship in those days, the “Harmon Cup” was placed on display in the winning community. The first team to win the championship three times would retain the cup in its permanent possession. At that time, Bangor, Bar Harbor and Presque Isle each had two wins to their credit. Sweetser was named to the All-Aroostook team three consecutive years: 1930, 1931 and 1932. In 1931 and 1932, he was a unanimous choice, and in ’32, he was the only unanimous choice. He also was the leading scorer when the Wildcats defeated the UMO frosh, which had lost only one game. He was considered the finest big man in northern Maine, demonstrating excellent passing and shooting skills.
    After graduating from high school, Sweetser attended one year of college at Bridgton Academy. He also became a standout there and led Bridgton to the prep school finals where they lost 32-31 to Coburn Classical on a last-second shot. While at Bridgton, Sweetser averaged approximately 13 points per game despite suffering knee and ankle injuries. After this season, Sweetser returned to the farm on the Reach Road in Presque Isle. A heart attack at the age of 28 kept him out of the war and on the family farm.
    While one can marvel at Sweetser’s exploits on the basketball court, it was what he accomplished in track and field that got this writer’s attention. Ralph participated on the PIHS track team for three years and became a dominant force.
    The 1930 season brought the PIHS track team its first County championship in several years, interrupting seven years of Houlton’s dominance. As a sophomore, Sweetser was first in the shot put and second in the discus and was the third highest point winner in the meet.
    In a track meet held in May of 1931, Presque Isle competed with the University of Maine Frosh team. In that meet, Sweetser was first in the broad jump (20 feet, four and three-quarter inches) and first in the discus with a throw of 114 feet 10 inches. He also finished second in the hammer throw, javelin and shot put. Later that same spring, an All-Aroostook Track team made up of trackmen from Houlton, Caribou and Presque took on the Maine Freshman. In this meet, Sweetser won the shot put with a throw of 45 feet 9 and one-half inches and was second in the discus and high jump. At the State Track and Field Championship won by South Portland, Sweetser set a new State record in the shot put, hurling the 12 pound shot 48 feet seven and three-eights of an inch; he also won the discus with a throw of 116 feet 6 and one-quarter inches, took third in the broad jump and tied for fourth in the high jump. Sweetser led Presque Isle to a third-place finish in the meet.
    In 1932, Presque Isle won another Aroostook County track title led by Ralph Sweetser, his twin brother, Richard, and Clarence Burnett. Ralph, who was handicapped by two sprained ankles, succeeded in capturing individual honors with 22 points. He was first in the hammer throw, discus and shot put. He tied for first in the broad jump and grabbed second in the javelin. In the shot put event, he had a toss of 51 feet 6 and seven-eighths of an inch for a County record.
    At one time, Ralph Sweetser held the County record in the shot put, discus and high jump and the Maine shot put and discus titles. He is still the record holder in the shot put – a record that has stood for 76 years.
    In his later years, Ralph became an outstanding golfer competing in golf tournaments locally and statewide. He won the men’s senior championship, won the ninth annual Woodsman Open in 1982 and set a record for low gross, and in 1980 and 1982 he was the PICC Club Champion Runner-up.
    In 1932, the Bangor Daily News ran a series of articles on athletic families of Eastern and Northern Maine. On Jan. 13, 1932, the article titled the “Sweetser Brothers Presque Isle Kings of the Court” appeared in the Bangor Daily News.





Ralph Sweetser