By Steve Bender
At one time, Greater New Bedford Track and Field competition during the months of November, December, January and February was called Winter Track. The meets took place outdoors on a wooden 11 lap/mile track at the old New Bedford Voke on Hillman Street in New Bedford.
No matter how cold it was, the meets went on. If it snowed, the meets were rescheluled. Snow was the only deterrent unless the competition had already started. The athletes and coaches really never complained because that’s just the way it was.
Goals and personal records (PR’s) set for athletes were a minor consideration because of the weather conditions.
It was difficult to get an optimum performance when it was 15 degrees.
Athletes would wear tank tops and competive shorts when they lined up for the start of the race…Brrrr…
The shot put was metal and sometimes it was difficult to get a mark because of the frozen surface. It was like throwing on cement.
When there was a winter thaw, the shot puts would disappear into 6 inches of mud. One again, it was difficult to get a mark to measure the distance.
The runners would wear 1/4 pyramid spikes for traction. The needle spikes of today would be a deterrent.
The state meet was held at Boston Garden on a wooden track. All classes competed there on the same day. It was an all-day meet. Competing at Boston Garden with the Celtic Championship banners draped from the rafters was special to say the least.
The Neighb News readers from that generation should get a little smile.
Today, it is called Indoor Track, once again for obvious reasons. There are several schools that have indoor facilities with New Bedford Voc-Tech being the hub of area competion.
Winter Track was run from the 50’s to 1978 at the Hillman Street “complex.” In 1978 the sport moved indoors to the new 10-lap track at NB Voc-Tech. From athlete and later a coach’s point of view, it was a very welcomed change.
Now for an “I remember when” track meet.
On 2-3-77, Fairhaven was competing against Bishop Feehan on the NB Voke wooden track. The meet was for the Division 2 Conference title. With 3 events to go it started to snow. The snow started light and intensified…. not to a blizzard status but enough where the visibility was affected.
The last event was the mile. FHS needed a second place to “ice” the meet and not have to run the relay.
On an 11-lap track 440 “splits” (pace) were given every 2 3/4 laps. The coaches would go to the 440 split area, tell the runners their time then proceed to the next split.
After the first 440 split was given, the runners actually disappeared. When they reappeared it was like runners emerging from heavy fog, except it was snow.
Every teammate was off the bus cheering the FHS runners on in the snow.
The FHS runner took first and FHS won the meet. The relay was non contested because of the snow but FHS was victorious. Winners and times were not as significant as the team effort it took to beat a great Feehan team thus winning the Division 2 title.
The team returned to the bus for a wild ride home. The bus driver put the interior lights as on the FHS Winter Track team celebrated through downtown New Bedford on the bus.
However, let’s just mention a few names of that team: Tim Duffy, Brian Dufrane, Peter Desrosiers, Shawn McGreevy, Fred Frigault, Steve Wright, Tyler Brown, Russ Bergeron, Dave Bancroft, Doug Mitchell, Peter Ostiguy, Butch Fluerent and Jimmy Fernandez.
To say the least that meet over 40 years ago remains vivid to coaches and members of that team. •••
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