It showcases the best of the best, attracting top athletes from throughout the state in late January. With the quality of competition that converges inside the Reggie Lewis Athletic Center, some may argue that the yearly Massachusetts Scholastic Track Coaches Association (MSTCA) Elite Meet rivals the All-State Championships a month later.
This past Saturday’s competition validates that statement where some of the nation’s best performances were achieved during the five-plus hours of action.
But while the MSTCA Elite Meet does stir some excitement from a competitive level, it’s also special time of year for a few more well-deserved athletes, track & field specialists that have made their marks in various capacities in years’ past.
Each and every year at the meet, the Mass. coaches welcome their newest members into the MSCTA Hall of Fame. Some past inductees have been former marathon great and Wayland graduate Alberto Salazar, now coach of the elite Nike Oregon Project, and the legendary Johnny Kelley, a two-time winner of the Boston Marathon, who made the historic footrace his annual ritual long after winning his last race back in 1945.
At the Jan. 25 meet, longtime Bishop Feehan coach Bob L’Homme, chairman of the Hall of Fame committee, introduced 10 more inductees to a list that now features 77 members. Like previous years, the list is impressive, beginning with 1952 Plymouth High graduate Brooks T. Johnson.
Johnson’s athletic career included South Shore records in the long jump and the 60-yard dash. He went on to achieve great things on the track. He was a three-time finalist in the 50-yard dash at the prestigious Millrose Games and once tied the world record for the event while studying law at the University of Chicago. He was also a member of the gold-medal-winning 4x110 relay squad at the Pan Am Games in 1963.
Johnson might best be remembered for what he has done in his coaching career. Along with stints at St. Albans School, the University of Florida and Stanford University, he has coached Olympians since 1960. He was a member of the U.S. Track and Field Olympic coaching staff in 1976, 1984, 2004 and 2008, where he was the women’s team coach for track and field at the Summer Games in Los Angeles.
A list of some of the athletes that Johnson has coaches includes Willie May, a silver medalist in the 110 hurdles in 1960. He also coached past Olympic sprinters Evelyn Ashford and Chandra Cheeseborough, and currently has under his direction world-class athletes Justin Gatlin and David Oliver. The 79-year-old Johnson is a member of the U.S. Track Coaches Hall of Fame. He currently works for ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World, an organization he has turned into a financial success since being hired in 1996.
Few can match the determination and heart of another worthy inductee, former Brockton star Joe LeMar. He excelled on the track during his high school career with best of 4:24 for the mile and 1:54 for the 800. But LeMar’s no-quit attitude was demonstrated in a big way his junior year when a cancerous tumor in his foot returned after a lump was removed in seventh grade. With no other options due to the aggressive nature of the tumor, he was told by his doctors that his leg would have to be amputated by the time he was a senior.
“I knew going into my senior year that I would have to have it done, probably October of my senior year. They told me they would have to amputate right then and there, that it was getting bigger and it could spread fast,” LeMar recalled. “I bargained with them to give me a few more months.”
The former Brockton runner managed those few more months. Just three weeks after winning a New England title in the mile, LeMar had his leg amputated.
But it didn’t stop him from competing again.
“I kind of had it in the back of my mind that I would still be involved in the sport,” he said. “I just knew I would compete. I talked with my coach (Bill Jennings) and asked if it was possible. Soon after, I was competing in the Paralympics.”
While a paralympian, LeMar would earn 10 national titles and also a gold medal at the 1992 Paralymics in Barcelona, Spain, where he won the 400 meters in 58.85. During an eight-year span, he had bests of 55 seconds for the 400, 2:09 for the 800, 4:55 for the mile and 18-6 for the long jump, a mere two inches from a world record.
He credits his Brockton upbringing, a city that is well known for its champion athletes (e.g. Rocky Marciano and Marvin Hagler), for his competitive fire.
“It’s just that mentality as an athlete,” he said. “I also had great parents and great coaches behind me to support me.”
Brockton had four more inducted on Saturday, the members of the school’s 1979 national record-setting 4x400 relay squad. The foursome of leadoff Jim MacKinnon (50.3), second leg Paul Neves (49.2), third leg Dennis Doucette (50.4) and anchor Michael Sullivan (47.9) set the former mark of 3:17.8 at the New England AAU Indoor Track and Field Championship on Jan. 28, 1979 on Harvard University’s Gordon Track.
The induction ceremony on Saturday was the first time all four members of the relay squad were together since high school. Thirty-five years later, their time is still a Massachusetts’ and New England record.
“We came back (minus Sullivan) a few years ago for our high school Hall of Fame,” McKinnon said. “We didn’t have too much time together so last night we got a chance to hang out, talk about old times and the memories we had.”
“On the track, off the track, it was a great experience,” Neves added. “(Coach Ed Delgado) put us together as a group and from then on we were like, ‘Hey, we’re a team.’ We went everywhere together. We trained together. We partied together outside the school. We studied together. It was a wonderful time.”
The Brockton team competed, and excelled, in several out-of-state meets, including the New England Championships, the Eastern Championships, the New York State Relays and the prestigious Penn Relays.
“I think a lot of our success was in practice,” Doucette said. “We pushed each other so hard. We’d run 300 meters, six of them, all out in 35, 36 seconds. We had ladders on Monday. The workouts were brutal. We competed hard. We played hard. It was a great group.”
Sullivan, the fastest of the group, became the first runner in Massachusetts to break 47 seconds, running 46.9 at the invite-only Golden West Invitational in California. He would later run a best of 45 seconds while competing for Arizona State University where he earned an athletic scholarship.
After a hiatus from competitive running in his thirties, Sullivan would resume training as a master. He currently holds the age 50-54 Indoor World Record for 400 meters with a time of 52.44. He also ran a leg on a 4x400 relay that set a world record at the World Championships in Sacramento in 2011. In that meet, he also captured the 200 and 400.
“At the end of my thirties, I hadn’t been running,” said Sullivan, a junior high Phys. Ed. teacher and track coach. “I was getting a little depressed. I was like, ‘What am I missing?’ I had coached for 25 years so I ran with the kids anyways. One day, I ran a (400) race and ran like 55 seconds, not trying. I would just jump into races and not worry about the time.”
Other inductees in the 15-minute ceremony included Melody Johnson, a 1986 graduate of North Attleboro, and former Broomfield star Ari Lambi. Johnson excelled in the sprints and the shot put. She is still No. 10 all-time in the 55 with a 7.14 best and is No. 4 in the 50-yard dash at 6.14. She also ranks No. 1 in the shot put with a distance of 48-9. Lambi starred in the middle to long-distance events. She was the U.S. Junior National champion in the 1,500 meters (4:20.20) and once set a national record (2:45.46) for the 1,000 meters. She had best of 4:37.23 for the mile and 10:12.0 for two miles. She then took her talents to Stanford where she was a 14-time All American and was a member of an American record-holding 4x1,500 squad at the Penn Relays.
Due to their schedule, the husband-wife duo of Andy Powell (Oliver Ames) and Maurica Carlucci (Franklin), coaches at the University of Oregon, were inducted in a separate ceremony at Franklin Park this past fall when the Ducks traveled to the Bay State for the Boston College Cross-Country Invitational.
Carlucci, a 1998 graduate, was a six-time state champion in track while at Franklin, where she shined in the middle-distance events. She had best of 2:06.63 for the 800 and 4:16.51 for the 1,500 while a collegian at Stanford.
Powell is regarded as one of the greatest distance runners to ever come out of the state. As a high-schooler in the late 1990s, he had a PB of 4:02.7 for the mile and 8:50.29 for two miles. In 1999, he finished second in the high school mile at Millrose Games at Madison Square Garden. He also starred at Stanford where he ran the school’s all-time best for the 1,500 (3:40.65).
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