Turners Falls track coach Ron Hebert selected to Western Mass Runners’ Hall of Fame

  • Ron Hebert (right) with Greenfield track and field coach Pete Conway last spring. Contributed Image

Staff Writer
Published: 2/16/2022 5:39:54 PM
Modified: 2/16/2022 5:38:09 PM

Ron Hebert has devoted his life to coaching.

The Turners Falls High School track and field coach got into the sport his senior year of college and fell in love with it. He began coaching in 1969, has started a race and had it named after him, and still coaches to this day.

After all he’s accomplished in the sport, Hebert has been selected as part of the second Western Mass. Runners Hall of Fame class. The induction ceremony will be held March 12 at the Elks Lodge in Holyoke. 

“I was thrilled to hear it,” Hebert said. “Running and track and field have been my whole life.” 

The WMRHOF was founded in 2019 with the goal to recognize, honor and record the history of individuals and teams who excelled in or made impressive contributions to the sports of road racing, cross country and track while living in Western Mass.

Herbert fits the criteria to a tee. After playing football, basketball, baseball as well as wrestling at Northampton High School, he moved on to Springfield College where he majored in physical education. 

He continued wrestling at Springfield and his senior year, he began dating his future wife. Her father talked him into running track, and coming off wrestling season, Hebert was in phenomenal shape and was able to break a five-minute mile his first year running. 

After college in 1964, Hebert got into teaching at Northampton High School, but there weren't any coaching opportunities available to him at the school. That changed in 1969 when the cross country coaching job opened up. Hebert got the job and coached for two years before adding the track and field job to his workload in 1971. He also started the wrestling team at Northampton in 1971. 

He then spent the next 18 years coaching the Blue Devils before leaving to paint houses. After an injury painting in 1992, Hebert got back into coaching. He took the cross country job at Williston, where he spent eight years coaching there. He also assisted with the wrestling and track and field teams while with the Wildcats. 

When a new athletic director came in and demanded all coaches be part of the faculty, Hebert was once again out of a coaching job.

Searching ads in the local paper in 2002, he found a listing a little further north – the cross country job at Turners Falls was open. He interviewed, got the job and three weeks later also nabbed the track and field job in the Powertown. Some 20 years later and you’ll still find Hebert coaching Turners track athletes this spring.

“I wouldn’t drive that far every day if I didn't still love the kids and love coaching,” Hebert said. “One of the reasons I’m still coaching is seeing the kids improve. I enjoy seeing where they start and where they end up by the time they’re seniors. The kids are great to work with.” 

Throughout all his years coaching, Hebert has kept the same philosophies. He writes up a program for all 17 track and field events before the season that runs from the first day of practice to the final meet of the season. That program provides structure and direct messaging for how his athletes will improve. 

“I’ve coached long enough where I’ve found this system works best for the kids,” Hebert said. “I write the program on 4x6 cards and post them on the cork board which gives them their workout for the day. The biggest thing is it teaches them self discipline. They go off and do the workout, and I always tell them if they want extra help at the end, I’ll stick around. As long as they’re busy working, I’ll stay and keep helping.” 

Coaching isn’t Hebert’s only involvement in the sport. In 1970 there were just six road races in all of Western Mass., so Hebert’s father-in-law encouraged him to start his own event in Northampton. 

Along with the Sugarloaf Mountain Athletic Club, he formed the Florence Race. Three years later it was renamed the Ron Hebert Road Race, and it’s still run to this day – 50 years later. 

“It’s a thrill to have it named after me,” Hebert said. “Most people don’t have a race named after them until they’ve passed. I’ve never run it myself, I’m always too busy conducting it.”

Hebert also has spent time officiating the sport. He started in 1965 and it helped him pick up knowledge that he was later able to translate into his coaching. 

He also joined the Sugarloaf Mountain Athletic Club, ultimately becoming the quartermaster. He did that until just a few years ago, and his responsibilities included delivering equipment to those conducting races and being responsible for all the precious cargo like clocks, mile markers, etc. 

In 1964, Hebert helped Special Olympics founder Eunice Shriver with the first-ever Games. He was in charge of the New England contingent that traveled to the University of Southern California for the inaugural games, with six Northampton residents competing. 

Needless to say, Hebert was an easy nominee for the WMRHOF. 

Runners in this year’s class include Charles Towse, Cheryl (Dube) Abert, Dave Reinhart, Mary Ryczek, Roland Cormier, Stetson Arnold and Steve Snover. Race Directors include Hebert and Dick Arsenault while Dick and Rick Hoyt are being recognized for their accomplishments as both competitors and pioneers. 

Greenfield native Joe Martino will serve as the guest speaker, and tickets for dinner and the ceremony are $20 and can be purchased online at (runreg.com/w-mass-runners-hall-of-fame-induction-banquet).


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