I’d like to thank Dave for inviting me back to Ephblog to write this post.

Tonight in Phoenix, in what is arguably the highlight of the annual U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) annual convention, longtime Williams cross country and track and field coach Pete Farwell (’73) will be inducted into the USTFCCCA Hall of Fame. This is a much-deserved honor for one of the greatest coaches (and distance runners) in Williams history and a true Williams man.

Naturally to receive this kind of honor one needs an impressive collection of numbers, of championships, of wins, of trophies. And Pete has all of those on both the men’s and the women’s sides: Team National Championships in Cross Country, national runners up in Track and Field, and runners up in the All New England track meet (colloquially known as the DI New England meet), bucket-loads of NESCAC, New England Division III, ECAC, and NCAA Regional team titles in both sports, dozens and dozens of Little Three titles, and wins in myriad other meets big and small. Pete has produced individual NCAA champions, All Americans, and likely hundreds of All-Conference and All-New England athletes.

Hundreds of Coach Farwell’s former athletes will have their own reflections.  Here are mine (and I apologize for the self indulgence.) Pete was my head coach from 1989 to 1993, when I was on the track team at Williams (I was co-captain in 1992-1993, when I worked especially closely with him) and it was during this time when Williams track achieved another level of success. In the spring of 1991, my sophomore year, projections indicated that we might be in a position to repeat and win the NESCAC title the men’s team had taken for the second time in program history in 1990. Instead we lost by one point to Tufts. The meet was up at Colby and the trip back was among the longest bus rides of my life. I choked like a dog – projected to score in all three of the jumping events I got shut out, and I was not alone among my teammates in underachieving. The next week we returned to Colby for the Division III New England meet, we did not choke (I redeemed myself as well), winning our first New England DIII title. The ride back was much more pleasant than a week earlier. The men’s team would not only win NESCACs and DIII New Englands (indoors and out) for the rest of the decade, we would not lose to another DIII team outside of the national championships for years. The women’s team had similar successes. And it was during this era that Pete’s Cross Country teams became an absolutely dominant force regionally and nationally.

One of Pete’s real strengths was turning what many see as individual sports into team sports by creating a team mentality. During my time I had some exceptional teammates, Little Three and ECAC and NESCAC and New England champions (DIII and DI), All Americans. One of my teammates and friends, Ethan Brooks (’96) spent several years as an NFL player, and we had a team with lots of multi-sport athletes, especially coming from football. And while we all wanted to excel in our individual events, we also wanted our points to contribute to the team’s tally, and thus to its wins, which became increasingly dominant. Those team championships meant everything to us. And at Williams the old cliché about track teams – “a team can go up in a bus but the number of people who will score could come back in a van” – simply did not hold. Our depth of scoring was as much a strength as our quality of scoring.

Furthermore, for all of the successes that Williams track and cross country had, there was always room for performers who were not going to win individual titles, who were not even ever going to score at the Little Three meet. The men’s Cross Country team, always in the national team title chase, still had room for and indeed celebrated the so-called “Slo Boys,” guys who worked hard but were not top performers, were not going to compete in the big meets, were not ever going to win an individual title. But they were every bit a part of the team, pushed their other teammates in practice, and continued to work hard through the track season. Many of them may well have been among the top seven runners on other college cross country teams, but they were happy to be part of the Williams program, and Pete always made it clear that those championships were all of theirs, not just the guys who scored in the meets.

And on the track and cross country teams Pete coached all of those athletes equally. As head track coach he would work with the whole range of events, from the throwers to the jumpers, the sprinters to his distance runners. And when he came over to the jumping pits, he worked on technique drills with everyone – the most talented, the recruited athletes who hoped to qualify for Nationals or the DI New England meet, and the guys who had walked on and were hoping to earn a Personal Record that would not come close to qualifying them for the DIII New England meet. It didn’t matter – Pete coached them all. And occasionally he turned one of the latter into something resembling the former – because in the end, Pete was and is an exceptional coach and teacher.

A few years back I received a call on a September Monday morning from the Athletic Director of the DII university where I am a faculty member. We needed a new men’s and women’s cross country coach immediately. I had coached off and on since Williams, as a high school head track and cross country coach and as a college sprints and jumps coach at the Division I and Division II levels, had worked extensively with our athletics program ever since my arrival in a range of capacities, and had coached two club sports (including track and field) at the university. My cross country and distance training wasn’t extensive, but it was enough when coupled with my other coaching experience and the emergency needs of the program in difficult circumstances.

The first call I made was to Pete. We talked about training philosophies and specific workouts, about developing long-term plans for coaching a college season and balancing training, meets, and academics. He emailed me a range of materials that I incorporated (and sometimes flat-out stole) for my teams. Without Pete’s help, I would like to think that I would have been a perfectly adequate caretaker coach. Instead his help, and my experience on his teams, meant that the program did not suffer as much as it could have. Four of my athletes qualified for the NCAA regional meet. And I learned a whole lot about being a head coach at an NCAA-member institution. Pete has developed an impressive coaching tree at the high school and college levels and I am sure that every one of his disciples has countless stories about his influence and consider his lessons daily.

When the Williams track program honored legendary coach Dick Farley a few years back, Pete was the organizer of a massive return of Williams Track alums. Farley, a Hall of Famer in his own right for his work with the Williams football team, was also a former head coach of the Williams track teams (a position he gave up and that Pete, then head men’s cross country coach, took over when Farley got the head football job), and he and Pete had worked together for decades. Farley continued to be an assistant on the track teams. (My first interaction with him on the track team that I can recall consisted of him walking up to me early in my freshman year, saying simply, “Catsam, you’re jumping like shit,” and walking away. I came to love that man.) He and Pete would take over the track program again as co-head coaches in 2008 and 2013). I cannot possibly imagine two more different men. And yet their admiration for one another was clear. Pete’s respect for Coach Farley was obvious, as Pete was not only the chief organizer of the event honoring Farley, but also the MC of most of the weekend’s events. But on several occasions Farley made clear that he admired Pete every bit as much. How could he not?

Tonight Pete Farwell will be honored in Arizona, and rightfully so. He will be inducted in a class that includes college head coaches from Big-time DI programs (Amy Deem of Miami of Florida, Patrick Shane of BYU, Bob Kersee of UCLA and Cal-State Northridge as well as the coach of many superstars on the international scene), NAIA powers (Jack Hazan of Malone University), and the Ivy League (Fred Samara of Princeton).

I will regrettably not be able to be there, but I think I speak for hundreds of his former athletes when I say to Pete: We are proud of you. You deserve this. Thank you.

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