more than 30 years, boys and girls in Woburn have been discovering the joy of
running at a very early age. Running carried them into, through and beyond high
school. And the gentleman who exposed all of these harriers to this wonderful
sport was Bill O'Connor, who coached track and cross country at Woburn High
School for as long as anyone can remember.
"He made us run for the love of the sport, not for winning championships" (of
which Bill's teams won many by the way). "He taught us to be passionate and try
to be successful for each other, not for one individual," said Tanner captain
On October 15th Bill O'Connor lost his nine year battle with cancer. Gritty guy
that he was, Bill coached the team up until five days before he passed away. The
bridge over a stream at Horn Pond, Woburn's home course, was decorated with
running shoes draped all over it, left behind by runners of all ages who were
touched by Bill.
There was sadness in the running community but there was still over a month left
in the season. "Instead of mourning, my girls celebrated his fantastic life”,
coach James Fletcher told me. "They held true to his mantra, run for each other,
"Did they ever! The girls honored their late coach by running away with the
Middlesex League Title and on November 12th they won the Eastern Massachusetts
Division 2 championship.
"We knew it was what he wanted, he wouldn't have wanted us sitting around
feeling sorry because he wasn't there," added Flagg. When I visited with the
team it was raining buckets but the girls forged on with their workout and one
of the runners recited one of Bill O'Connor's favorite lines. "Coach always said
'rain only bothers dry people' and this rain is a message from coach to keep
going and prepare ourselves for the All State Championships," said a smiling
You never know how young people will react in adverse times. Their coach, Bill
O'Connor prepared them not just to run but to handle life's fortune as well as
misfortune. Oakie would be proud of this group. He served the youth of Woburn
well and his influence will be running around town for generations.