Saturday June 22, 2013

BRATTLEBORO -- John Dimick, head coach of the BUHS track and field team, said his feet have carried him about 100 miles a week for over a decade.

Now, facing retirement, Dimick -- who has trained Colonel star runners, jumpers, and throwers since 1976 -- admits he is ready to give his feet a rest and exchange hard pavement for a comfortable bicycle seat.

"It doesn’t wear you out the same way running does," said Dimick, who is 63. "My feet can’t take it anymore."

But his mind and the rest of him are still in excellent shape.

"A lot of [track and field] is mental breakthrough and hard training," he said. "There is no substitute. It has been very rewarding, but it is time for some younger blood -- someone with more energy. Kids respond to that type of thing."

When he was younger, and a bit more spry, Dimick attended St. Michael’s in Brattleboro and ran cross country, but the school didn’t offer a track program. It wasn’t until he attended UVM that Dimick was able to first put his sneakers down on a real track and race.

Gold sneakers is more like it.

"My own running career was pretty active," said Dimick.

Dimick graduated UVM in 1971, and was inducted into the university’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 1984. While in college, he continued cross country and also took up skiing.

Dimick started teaching at BUHS in 1973, and retired after 37 years of service. He spent 16 years teaching special education, finishing his career as educator at BAMS.

"Teaching helped with my running, when I was competing," said Dimick. "There weren’t many sponsors for runners back then, so teaching (with its hours) gave me time to train."

Dimick went on hiatus in the late 70s-early 80s to focus on his own career. He competed internationally, and at one point was sponsored by Nike and New Balance. He placed 13th in the 1978 Boston Marathon, and 26th in 1983 in the same race.

But his best time ever came in 1979 at the Mardi Gras Marathon in New Orleans, where he ran a 2:11:53. That same year, Dimick was named Vermont Athlete of the Year by the Vermont Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association.

34 years and 62 seasons later, Dimick said he intends on assisting BUHS transition to their new team, and coach, who as of yet, has not been named.

"It is a difficult position to fill because of the nature of the work," said Dimick.

According to Dimick, when heading a track and field team, there are huge amounts of time spent not actually coaching. It involves a lot of data input, maintenance of facilities, ordering of equipment, and a handful of other duties. "It’s unlike any other sport as far as commitment as a coach is concerned."

Since 2001, virtually every run, throw, jump, or best shot, no matter where the athlete placed, is in the BUHS database. It is an incredible amount of information, said Dimick.

As far as record-keeping is concerned, things were much different in the mid-early 70s, when Dimick began at Brattleboro as the women’s track coach.

Dimick then began coaching track and field in 1976. Before that, Art Freeman steered the ship.

Dimick said he’s been blessed with a lot of great athletes, and coaches. "You don’t do it alone out here," he said. "I followed Freeman. He taught me a lot. That was back when we had the cinder track."

Conditions and technology have improved since then, but Dimick said it’s really all about heart and determination.

"I’ve trained some exceptional runners," said Dimick, who mentioned past graduates Jacob Ellis (finished fifth in the 800-meter at the NCAA Div 3 Outdoor Track and Field National Championship), Jordan Peeples (state champ), Sarah Lange (state champ and All-American), Jan Carlson (13 individual state titles), Heather Pancake (Div 3 decathlon champ), and Jason Dunklee (state champ), to name a few.

"We’re not the biggest school but we spread our talent around," said Dimick. "In any other sport, you can make an error but someone can bale you out. Step into a shot circle and you throw bad, it’s just you. You can’t hide in this sport."

So what will Dimick do, now that he has some free time?

"I’m trying to pursue fine art painting," he said. "Water colors and oil. I was an art minor in college. I obviously got sidetracked. I’ve got plenty to do around home. Just looking for new horizons. There’s no shortage of things to do. I’m in pretty good health and that’s the key."

Like he said, can’t hide.

"It’ll be hard to drop out of sight completely, unless I move out of the area," said Dimick, who plans on staying in Vermont.

David Aquino can be reached at daquino@reformer.com, or by calling 802-254-2311, ext. 163.