Jaywalking: Hall of Famer

Bob Smith has coached the Frontier Regional School girls’ track & field team since the spring of 1980.

In that time, he has been at the helm for exactly 241 dual meets. There are eight that specifically stand out in his head.

Those would be all of the losses he has endured during his 35 years at the school. On Saturday, Smith found out that he would be joining some elite company as he was chosen to go into the Massachusetts State Track Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

It’s no wonder that Smith was up for induction as he averages one loss every four-plus years. It’s a streak that has seen some impressive moments, including a recent winning streak that is likely to be among the longest winning streaks of any sport in the state.

Smith graduated from Frontier in 1971 and went to Wesleyan University. After graduating, he spent a half-year teaching at Pioneer before moving on to teach in Middletown, Conn., for one season. He returned to Frontier in the fall of 1978 and began teaching eighth-grade English, a job he continues doing to this day.

“I tell people that I’ve been in the eighth grade longer than anyone in Franklin County,” he joked.

Smith spent the spring of 1979 serving as an assistant coach on the track team and the next spring he took over as the head coach. That first season would be the only year that Smith has ever lost two meets in the same season — to Athol and Mohawk — and it began what has become a dynasty.

“It’s been a long time but it’s been really great,” Smith said. “I’ve had an amazing opportunity to coach amazing kids.”

While Smith had a strong run for the first 20 years of his tenure, the past 15 years have seen the program really thrive, especially in the postseason. One person that has been with Smith during that time is assistant coach Jim Recore, another native of the Frontier district, who became an assistant coach at Frontier in 1999. Smith praised the work of his long-time assistant.

“Without him, none of this would be possible,” Smith said. “Jim is just the most fantastic guy to coach with. He makes my job infinitely easier. I can’t say enough about him.”

Recore dished equal praise on Smith, saying that “for whatever reason, we work well together,” and said that he still remembers something Smith told him early on in their coaching tenure.

“He told me that WMass championships don’t happen very often and to savor them if you get the chance,” Recore recalled.

As it turned out, WMass championships did happen fairly often for the two men.

Frontier has won five WMass titles since 1999, giving Smith six during his tenure to go along with 11 runner-up finishes. The Red Hawks have also won 27 league titles in that time, going 233-8 overall. All of these numbers are quite impressive, but it may be the winning streak that Smith will be most remembered for when he retires some day.

Beginning in 1997, Frontier went on a 107-meet winning streak, which carried over until this past spring when the streak was snapped in a loss to South Hadley, the eighth loss of Smith’s career. For some perspective, here’s a few things you might remember from 1997:

• Gas cost $1.22 per gallon in the United States.

• Princess Diana was killed.

• The Notorious B.I.G. was killed.

• The first book in the Harry Potter series was written.

• Movies released that year were Titanic, Men in Black, and The Lost World: Jurassic Park.

• Current high school juniors were just being born.

Smith has no plans to leave the program, so it’s likely he will continue to build his already impressive resume. Now, he will do so as a Hall of Famer.

“To be in a group that includes Mulazimuddin Rasool (from Amherst), Joe Chadwick (Mohawk) and Dick Atkinson (Southwick) — those are some of the best people I’ve ever had the chance to coach with or against,” Smith concluded. “To be among them is kind of cool.”

I found out late that Mohawk hosted a state qualifying Nordic ski event on Sunday, Jan. 26.

The Nordic skiers from Mohawk have done very well this season and today they will compete in the state meet at Notchview Reservation in Windsor.

The skiers were qualifying to compete on the Massachusetts team that will compete at the Eastern High School Championships on March 15 & 16. That team will take 24 boys and 24 girls. That is open to skiers in grades 9-12 and three Mohawk skiers qualified for the team. Allison Lull, Tom Damery and Tyler Andrews) will each compete on that team.

Additionally, the qualifier also served to fill out a team that will compete in an event called the J2 Championship, open to kids ages 14 and 15, which will take place on March 7 & 8. Mohawk’s Aidan Sandvik and Sarah Gokey each qualified for that team.

Jason Butynski is a Greenfield native and Recorder sportswriter. His email address is jbutynski@recorder.com.

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