For 15 minutes on Wednesday afternoon, most of the athletic facilities on the BC High campus were deserted. Instead of practicing, the entire student body, including the spring athletes and their coaches, gathered on the football field to pay tribute to retiring track coach John Normant, giving a standing ovation to a man who spent the last 50 years at his alma mater as a coach and educator.
But the ceremony only brushed the surface. If everyone Normant impacted over his time with the Eagles had shown up, athletic director Jon Bartlett might have needed to start construction on a stadium expansion.
“Most tenured coach at BC High, obviously,” Bartlett said of Normant. “Coaching before man got to the moon; that’s when he started. What’s amazing about coach Normant is for track, his specialty is everything. Field events. Sprints. Long distance. You don’t see that much in track coaches in many programs.”
With his wife, Anne Marie, and son, Michael, along side, Normant told his track team of his retirement in a private team meeting before addressing the crowd. A 1964 BC High alumnus, he reflected on his time at the school and also cracked some jokes, attempting to recruit some of the athletes present to run indoor track.
“I had to make a decision at some point, and this is it,” said Normant. “I’ve got a granddaughter now who is 14 months old. I get to spend more time with her . . . That part of it was easy, but walking away from the kids is not easy at all. They work so hard every day, and when you see them improve and get better, it’s very rewarding and it’s tough to give that up.”
Normant, who has been coaching at BC High since 1968 and teaching math since 1982, led the Eagles to consistent success across all three sports seasons, including a Division 1 indoor track championship in 2009.
“He’s meant a lot,” said senior captain Andrew Murray. “He’s kind of been the rock that’s always been here. He’s always out here. He’s the first one out here, last one putting things away, giving up countless hours, countless Saturday mornings at either practice or track meets.
“Continuously showing commitment to the program, commitment to the team, and I think that’s something everyone tries to exemplify.”
Normant’s team was taken aback by the announcement, but heaped praise on their departing coach for the time and effort he devoted to the school.
“He’s a man of many talents,” said fellow senior captain Chris McCarthy. “I wouldn’t say he’s strictly a track coach. I don’t think BC High is losing a track coach, I think they’re losing a member of their family. He is a BC High man. If I told you who a BC High man is, it’s Mr. Normant.”Dan McLoone can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.