Coaches come in all shapes, sizes and physical abilities. I can remember the man shouting splits for one opposing team wearing a derby hat with the stopwatch around his neck, all while chomping on his Cuban cigar.
Of course, we had a coach not far removed from IC4A titles who insisted on pacing our pack through those intense fartleks.
Cross-country runners at North High and Worcester Tech, along with spring track athletes at Clinton High, are fortunate to have such a coach. He may have competed at UMass while Julius Erving was earning his roundball doctorate, but Angel Nieves continues to impart his experience through his current success as a senior track and field standout.
“I’ve thought that my students and student-athletes would get a kick out of that one is not too old to stay active and participate,” said Nieves, who just turned 66 and is coming off another successful summer on the New England Senior Games circuit.
Nieves, a father of six and grandfather of seven who lives in Millbury, collected three gold medals, two silvers and a bronze in the Maine Senior Games June 29 in Scarborough, and followed that four golds and a bronze at the Nutmeg State Games July 20 in New Britain, Conn., all in the 65-69 age category.
When attending these meets, he continues to compete with the intensity he had as a multiple threat at Clinton High and UMass. The times and distances may have waned a bit, but Nieves still won’t shy from entering several events.
As a collegian, he competed in eight track events, along with playing some football during the Greg Landry days. In high school, Nieves and three brothers frequently combined to outscore entire teams.
“I just enjoy competing. I really don’t care about the medals,” said Nieves, who has taught history at North for the past 18 years. “I just get a thrill from competing. Some will play golf, others tennis or take part in some kind of hobby. This is my recreation.”
Included in Nieves’ training is frequent bike riding, along with runs along the Wachusett Reservoir in Clinton.
This summer, Nieves collected hardware from performances in the 50- and 100-meter dashes, along with the high jump, triple jump, pole vault and shot put. In past summers, he competed in decathlons. When his schedule permits, he likes to compete in as many of New England’s six states as possible. This year, he was slowed a little when he had an adverse effect from a cholesterol medication he was taking, but he reports he’s fine and plans to compete at an event in September.
Within the next three weeks, North High’s boys’ and girls’ cross-country runners return to step up training for the season, and Nieves is assisted by former Polar Bears captain Donald Vo. “We put out a good product and we have a lot of fun,” said Nieves, who has coached North’s harriers the past 15 years.
Of course, selling the sport at North does come with challenges. “There’ll be kids that think it’s cross-country skiing,” said Nieves, who sometimes has 30 to 50 candidates at the beginning of a season. North, which co-ops with Worcester Tech in cross-country, annually falls short to perennial Inter-High champ Doherty High, yet lost the dual meet last year by only a point.
At Clinton, the Gaels have been following Nieves’ competitive example for the past 28 years. Included among recent successes is discus standout Matt Thompson, a two-time T&G Super Teamer who in 2011 finished second in the All-State Meet and fifth at the New England Championships.
Nieves values his role working with his students and athletes. “I tell the kids you can play these sports the rest of your life,” he said. “The focus, the discipline and the stick-to-itiveness can stay with you.”
How long can he keep competing while coaching? “You’ll see guys competing out there when they’re 99 years old. If I can compete then, I’ll be lucky.”
Worters wins in Falmouth
Festivities for the 41st Falmouth Road Race kicked into full gear Saturday night, and Shepherd Hill Regional’s Stella Worters showed she’ll be a runner to be reckoned with during her upcoming senior year.
Worters, a Charlton resident who was the Telegram & Gazette Super Team miler this past spring, won the girls’ Tommy Cochary High School Mile in 5:14 at Falmouth High School. This was her second year competing in the event, an invitational gathering some of the best distance runners in the state the night before the Falmouth Road Race.
Running columnist trips up
Guess I had a rough one two weeks ago, first inserting the wrong day for one of the race listings in the calendar, then the lead subject for the column informs me I gave him a little too much credit.
Bob Dio of Worcester was fifth for the 60-64 age group at the Worcester Firefighters Memorial 6K in June, not first, but the good deacon did capture the age-group title for last year’s Tour de Worcester, with the best combined time from the Jay Lyons Memorial 5K, the WFD 6K and the Canal Diggers 5K.
Again, we’re wishing all the best for Bob, his mates at Team Genesis, and many others from Central Mass. taking on Falmouth Road Race this morning.