HAMPDEN — When Hampden Academy formed its swim team in 2005, the Broncos didn’t have a home pool, practicing and competing instead at the Bangor Y pool.
The Broncos eventually moved their practices to Hampden’s Lura Hoit Memorial Pool, and slowly but surely, the team has started to make the town-owned facility into a home of its own.
Hampden Academy graduate Justin Cole helped the Broncos take a big step in that direction last year, when the longtime Boy Scout decided to make some improvements at the Hoit pool for his Eagle Scout project.
Cole worked part of last spring and summer to repair, renovate and paint some storage benches at the pool and also built a wall board to post Hampden Academy’s swimming and diving records.
Now a freshman at the University of Massachusetts in Lowell, Cole was recognized Saturday afternoon with the rank of Eagle Scout, the highest in Boy Scouting.
More than 50 family members, friends, Scout leaders and fellow scouts from Troop 41 watched the ceremony at the Hampden Municipal Building.
“I watched Justin come in and go from a boy not familiar with the ways of Scouting, to a leader and an example for other Scouts to look up to,” said Dave Parsons, Troop 41’s former leader, who spent four years in charge of Hampden’s Troop 41 of which Cole is a member, before the ceremony started. “It’s quite a feat to make it as an Eagle Scout.”
Only about 2 percent of boys in Scouting become Eagle Scouts, Parsons added.
Cole, 18, said he did the work with the assistance of current Troop 41 leader Todd Moore, who is also a teacher at Hampden Academy and a contractor on the side.
Cole, the son of David and Clare Cole, got involved with Scouting as a first-grade student, but Scouting took a back seat to other activities during high school.
“[Eagle Scout] was always kind of a goal but I got so involved with other things, so I had some divided interests,” he said. “I didn’t really get back on track until last year when I thought, ‘I’ve come this far and it’s still doable.’”
One of those high school interests was swimming. Cole was in the first group of swimmers to complete a full four years on the Hampden team, which formed in the 2005-06 school year.
For more than 15 years, Hampden had a small enough contingent of swimmers to practice and compete at meets alongside the Brewer High School team. But when the Hampden team grew too large to continue its cooperative relationship with Brewer, the Maine Principals’ Association ruled Hampden Academy had to form its own team.
Hampden first practiced at the Bangor Y pool and recently moved to the smaller Hoit pool. To make the Hampden swimmers feel at home, pool staff ordered lane lines in the Broncos’ purple-and-white colors, and the swimmers hung a banner.
Cole, who was a team captain his junior and senior years, wanted to take it a step further with his Eagle Scout project. He renovated and painted the storage benches — in purple and white, of course — and made the record board, which is mounted at the pool and denotes the team’s top times in individual and relay meet events.
“I had a good connection with my coaches and the rest of the team, and swimming was one of the best times of high school,” Cole said. “[Swimming] was a lot of really hard work, and I wanted to do something a little more [with the Eagle Scout project] than just for Scouting. This seemed like the natural thing to do, and now it seems like more of a home for the team rather than just a community pool.”