Even though John Bapst track and field coach Bruce Pratt has mentored a great high school track and field program, for him, it wasn’t all about wins and losses.
“This group of kids, I think it’s probably the best year of coaching as a staff we’ve done,” said Pratt.
Pratt, who has coached eight Class C girls state champions since 2002 and 13 conference championships between the girls and boys teams, has decided to retire from his head coaching post at John Bapst.
Pratt was the head coach of the Crusaders the last 10 seasons and was an assistant for five years prior to that, and he also coached football and skiing at the Bangor school.
“It was a great run, but there’s so many other things that I’ve been neglecting,” he said. “I can’t do this anymore. I’m going to miss it, but it’s the right time.”
Pratt’s wife, Janet, works in Boston three days a week, so he’s looking forward to spending more time with her on the weekends while also doing some fishing, traveling and hunting while promoting his upcoming novel, “The Serpents of Blissful,” which will be released in October.
He considered retiring after last season, but after doing some thinking, decided that he would give it one more season.
“I just felt like last season was not the most fun I ever had,” Pratt said. “This past season, I dedicated myself to making sure I had a lot of fun in my final year, I was rewarded by a great effort by the kids.”
That effort was showcased by Pratt’s girls team in the Class C state championship meet last week, as the Crusaders scratched and clawed from an early deficit to win yet another state crown, doing it with no individual winners.
Even though that was the case on June 9, some of Maine’s top track athletes, including Chris Fogler, Katie Andrle, Madeline Glover and Elaine Colwell, spent their high school careers under Pratt’s tutelage while he also coached many other conference and state champions.
Andrle, one of the top hurdlers in state history, was a freshman on Bapst’s first state championship team in 2002.
“The year that we had that incredible freshmen class with Andrle, really turned it around,” Pratt said. “We had success that year, it just meant that we always had a lot of kids coming out for track.”
The Crusaders always had one of the larger programs in the Class C ranks, with 91 athletes two years ago.
Pratt informed his team he was retiring after they had won the state championship, and there weren’t too many dry eyes when he gave a speech at the team’s awards night last Thursday.
“When I gave my farewell speech I had to pause several times to get through it,” he said.
Even though the Crusaders sent their coach out on top, that was just coincidence, as Pratt was hanging up his stopwatch no matter the result.
“I didn’t want them to know before the meet because I didn’t want them to think they had to win one for me,” he said. “It puts pressure on kids they really don’t need.”
Over the years, especially in state championship competition, Pratt’s teams showed off their depth, which was the case last week when the Crusaders used a 3-4 finish in the 3,200 run from Mary and Adrienne Carmack to forge into the lead for good.
“We got 20 points in this year’s state meet from fifth-sixth-seventh places,” Pratt said. “We knew we could be pretty good but we didn’t know how good we could be. We had to get kids to change some events, do things we haven’t done before. That’s really served us so well over the year.”
The thing he’ll miss most of all is interaction with his athletes on a daily basis.
“I’m not going to miss the bus rides, working out the seeds and all the mundane things, but the day to day contact with young people, it’s kept me young for a long time,” said the 59-year-old Pratt.
Having solid assistant coaches in Jeff Libby, Joe Capehart and John Halloran has also made Pratt’s job easier, and he said he may attend meets in the future.
“I want to see coaches, I want to see [meet director] Mary Cady, and people who have helped me along the way,” he said. “I love track too much to disappear.”
Pratt sees John Bapst remaining as a championship-caliber team for years to come in the Class C ranks, while he thanked the PVC administrators for their work over the years.
“I would put track in the PVC in terms of professionalism against any sport anywhere in the state of Maine, any time of year, any conference,” he said. “Our meets are great, our times are accurate, our distances are accurate, we have great officials.”