The increasingly parochial observations of a casual runner in his fifties. Was "serious" about "the sport" until personal and sociocultural inevitabilities prevailed.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Video (yes) of the 1972 New England High-School Cross-Country Championships

Every once in a while, something I post on the Internet for no better reason then to justify an emotionally satisfying exploration of history happens to add a few verses to the online distance-running canon. This in turn sometimes results in a mutually pleasing interaction between previously unacquainted running junkies who hail from different generations and places but have enjoyed overlapping experiences.

This has happened on a number of occasions as a result of this write-up stemming from my experiences coaching high-school track and cross-country in my hometown at the dawn of the century. Although I took charge of the BBHS teams sixteen years after John Savoie died, a number of members of the faculty remembered him, in some cases both as a student in the early seventies and as a young adult thereafter. Partly for this reason and also because I'd heard about J.P.'s nonpareil exploits over the years, I decided to give out a J.P. Savoie Award in addition to some other gimcrack in my second season there, when the boys went to the N.H. Meet of Champions for the first time. To quote myself:

As a junior he finished third in the 1971 New England Championship, having led his mates to the New Hampshire Class I state championship the week before. After again leading the Green Giants to the state crown in 1972, he returned to the New Englands and, coming from 50 yards behind in the final half-mile, crossed the line a winner by a full ten seconds, setting a record of 12:11 for the 2.5-mile course. In the spring, he set a Class I State record by grinding out a 4:19 mile. All told, Savoie at one time held over 30 cross-country records throughout New Hampshire. J.P. Savoie, who spent fewer than three decades running and roving among us, was a winner of the first magnitude. Sports were only a part of that.

Screen capture of J.P. Savoie about 30 meters from the finish line in Portland, Maine. 


































In an unlikely bit of kismet, a gentleman who ran in the New Englands race that Savoie won got his hands on a video of it, or of a decent chunk of it. He tells the story well, so I will pass along his words in their native form.

Good evening,

I just stumbled on the piece you wrote about John Savoie. Heartbreaking really. 

It’s a bit of a story how I know his name and why I searched and found your essay today. 

I was in the New England Championship race in ‘72 that he won. I was not vaguely a contender to win but I was there, Riverside Golf Course in Portland Maine, Nov 11, 1972. My team Mt Desert Island from Maine won the Class B state title on the same course the week prior and ultimately we were 8th in that NE meet. 

It was the first of I think 16 state championships won by my coach, Howard Richard. We lost him in 1994 in his late 50s, too young, of a massive heart attack. 

Through the wonders of social media I’ve stayed in touch with my teammates, the larger Mt Desert island HS running community and perhaps most importantly (in this story) to my coaches widow.  

About 4 yrs ago she told me that she had unearthed a box of my coaches old home movies. I remembered him carrying his super 8 camera to most of our big races and at the end of the season at a pizza party we’d see his movies. I remembered such a thing at the end of the ‘72 season.  It made me wonder whether the ‘72 film somehow had magically survived. I didn’t quite dare believe it was even possible. 

It took me 4 yrs to get his widow to send the box of movies to me in New York City, where I live retired from my career at the Museum of Modern Art. None of the films I received were labeled. I still could only hope there might be familiar treasures among the reels but had no way to even see.

My son in law works in network TV in NYC and helped me arrange for the films to be sent to LA for careful cleaning, restoration  and to be digitized.  It took 6 weeks to get the work done...and yes, dreams do come true.  I literally put them up on YouTube yesterday. 

Of course the one you will be interested in features the New England Championship race that John Savoie won. The first segment on the film is that New England Championship race. The 2nd race from the reel is the Maine State Championship from the week prior. 

Naturally posting the races on social media has created a flood of warm nostalgia amongst my old teammates and friendly rivals from back in the day. I found myself thinking about that race again and became curious about the winner of the race. I found a website in Maine that listed the top 10 finishers for many of the races including 1972. It wasn’t hard from there to find information about Mr. Savoie and ultimately your essay. 

I will attach a link to the video here. 



I hope this completes the circle for you in the same way your essay did for me. 

Sincere thanks for what you wrote. 

Larry Allen 

I got this on May 31, so I haven't exactly done a quick turn-around with this. But with the passing of Coach Bill Luti, the era in which he operated -- a time for all intents and purposes preceded my own blundering upon the runningscape -- has suddenly become more interesting and urgent. Savoie ran for a crosstown rival of Luti's Concord boys, one that was actually better than the Crimson Tide in '71 and '72. Savoie's coach, Harvey Smith, was in some ways a protege' of Coach Luti, but Harvey, who went on to coach some historically dominant tennis teams at CHS after winning seven straight Division 2 cross-country titles at Brady, is now legendary in his own right. I hope I can direct him to the video, because I'm sure he knows nothing about it and it would be truly moved by it. 

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