Coach Babington to Retire at End of 2013 Season
Long-time Wellesley College cross country head coach and head track and field coach John Babington recently announced his retirement following the end of the 2012-13 academic year. He leaves on a high note, with great performances at New England Open Championships earlier this month and at the Eastern Colleges Athletic Conference (ECAC) Championships on May 17 (including the 5th place 4 x 800 meter relay team of Sharon Ng '16, Cristina Lucas '13, Alexandra Dunn '15, and Victoria Lee '16, who clocked the fastest Wellesley time ever in the event; and Lucas's qualification for the 1,500 at NCAA Nationals on May 23).
The May 19 Boston Globe profiled the renowned coach of 26 years, with a review of his career and a chat with Randelle Boots ’13, one of the program’s most decorated athletes.
In 1987, Babington took the helm of Wellesley’s then two-year-old cross country program. He was named the head track and field coach in fall 2010, overseeing the program's transition from club to varsity status.
“What makes coaching here a great experience is that the students aspire to excellence in everything they do,” Babington told the Globe. “They’re hard-working and competitive. But they also like to have fun.”
Boots shared with the Globe Babington's importance to her as a coach but also as a mentor even beyond the track—as someone she could always turn to.
During his tenure, Wellesley cross country has captured five New England Women's and Men's Conference (NEWMAC) Championships, and has finished second in the last four seasons in the highly competitive conference. Prior to the inception of the NEWMAC, Babington guided the Blue to four straight New England Women's 8 (NEW 8) Championships from 1993-96. Babington has been voted a conference Coach of the Year by his peers seven times.
"John's passion for coaching and the sport of running is second to none," said Bridget Belgiovine, Wellesley's director of athletics, in a Wellesley Blue news release. "His dedication to Wellesley's cross country program, the formal establishment of our track and field program, and most importantly to the hundreds of Wellesley students he has coached in his 26 years has been noteworthy."
As Assistant Coach Allison Wade told the Globe, “He’s a really caring coach who gives his attention to everyone. He gets excited about everyone’s personal best.”
“He’s a legend, but he likes to fly under the radar,” Wade added.
Babington's passion for teaching the art of running has extended outside his career at Wellesley. He was head coach of the U.S. national team at the 1990 World Cross Country Championships, and was an assistant coach on the U.S. track & field team at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. Babington was the U.S. Senior Women's Leader for the 2001 World Cross Country Championships in Belgium, and on the U.S. coaching staffs at the 2003 World Indoor Track & Field Championships in Birmingham, England; the 1993 World Track & Field Championships in Stuttgart, Germany; and the 1995 World University Games in Fukuoka, Japan.
Yet Babington has said, "Coaching at Wellesley has been the extended highlight of my coaching career. It has been a great pleasure and privilege to work with so many dedicated and talented student-athletes."
Under Babington's leadership, the cross country and track programs have produced 24 individual nationals qualifications by nine athletes. Blue runners have also achieved 12 All-American awards.
“I am very proud of the many fine accomplishments of the team over the last 26 years," said Babington. "In retiring, I will take with me wonderful memories of my years at Wellesley. I will always be a fan and follower of the Blue, and I foresee great things in the future for Wellesley Cross Country and Track & Field.”
The feeling is mutual, as graduating senior Boots explained to the Globe: “I’m definitely going to stay in touch with him.”
A national search for Babington's replacement has already begun.