By Lloyd Jones
CONWAY — After 13 years of being the faces of the track and field program for the Conway Parks & Recreation Department, Eileen and Bernie Livingston, are stepping away to spend more time traveling, visiting family, and, well, relaxing a little bit.
The dynamic duo coach the cross-country, indoor track and outdoor track teams at Kennett High School.
"We owe a huge debt of gratitude to Bernie and Eileen," said Michael Lane, assistant recreation director for the town of Conway. " They've helped grow this into one of the most successful programs we offer. The time and effort the two of them put into the program is phenomenal. They're going to be extremely hard to replace. They pretty much have been coaching year-round and deserve a little time for themselves."
"It's a long year, and was beginning to get too tiring," Bernie Livingston said. "We want to go do some visiting this summer. A little down time won't be a bad thing for us."
The program is for boys and girls aged 9-14, who are residents of Conway and Albany. Last year, there were 49 participants, while in 2015 there were 67.
Spearheading the program this summer will be Steve Bamsey, who has volunteered for a number of years, and as a teacher at Conway Elementary School, has a natural rapport with children.
"Steve will do a great job," said Director John Eastman.
The program will begin on May 31, and will run every Monday and Wednesday from 5:30-6:30 p.m., at Gary Millen Stadium at Kennett High School.
All participants must sign up at the Conway Parks & Recreation Department. The registration deadline is this Wednesday.
The program is designed to teach children the fundamentals of track and field events, which include running dashes, relays and softball throws.
The program will run approximately five weeks and will include two local track meets. Registration fee is $10, which covers the cost of a T-shirt to wear in the track meets.
All participants must sign up at the Conway Rec in Center Conway.
Eastman said Conway had a track program that participated in the Hershey Track and Field Program in 1997 when Jake Russell qualified for the national championships in the sprints.
There were a few years after that where the program sat stagnant, Eastman said, but in 2003, "Bernie approached me about rejuvenating it. I was all for it."
The first year, Eastman recalled the Livingstons attracted about 20 youngsters.
"He and Eileen mentored and developed the program," he said. "Conway Rec served as the catalyst. It just evolved over the years. A lot of the kids Bernie and Eileen mentored have come back and now volunteer. It's been the perfect match. I know the key to a track and field program being successful is having good coaching. This was beyond mine, Todd (Gallagher's) and Mike's expertise. We were baseball guys who were lucky Bernie and Eileen wanted to take this on.
Bernie's reputation as a track coach and a human being speak for itself," Eastman added. "There's not a better family than the Livingstons. We could never repay them for all they have done."
Eastman said it will be a smooth transition to the Bamsey era.
"Steve has been an icon here for quite a few years," he said. "He's helped coach girls' softball both here and at the North Conway Community Center. And, as a teacher, he has a lot of contacts with dealing with elementary schools. I think he's worked the last six or seven years with Bernie. I think Eileen and Bernie's unselfish desire to serve rubs off on people."
"Steve will do a phenomenal job," Livingston said. "He's been with us for a number of years and knows the kids."