John Carroll has been the driving force in track & field for girls in Massachusetts since he began coaching in 1970. Originally hired as a boys’ coach, he started a girls’ cross-country program because he was coaching the boys only indoor and outdoor. His first cross-country team attracted 15 girls; the second year 30 girls came out and they became a team of destiny. As there was no high school program for girls’ cross-country, Carroll formed the Falmouth Track Club to find competition for them and traveled all over New England, New York State, New Jersey, Tennessee and Ohio. He also organized “junior races” in Falmouth; in one such memorable race, the top participating athletes were Jan Merrill, Lynne Jennings, Judy St. Hilaire, Johanna Forman, and Joan Benoit.
Carroll continued to promote girls’ cross country and within two years over 300 girls ran in his unofficial “state meet.” The following year, the first official Massachusetts high school girls’ state cross country championship meet was held and girls’ cross-country became an official girls’ sport. Falmouth won six of the first eight championships.
“If you ran x-c and you’re going to run in the spring, you may as well run with the boys during the winter.” Carroll said to the girls. Twenty-five of them went through the first winter running with the boys’ team. Without any high school programs in place, during the indoor season Carroll managed to find competition for the girls by traveling to any location that offered races for them. He organized a state-wide meet for girls called “Uncle John’s Relays” and within two winters participation grew to over 500 girls.
In 1976, the Falmouth Track Club team, comprised entirely of Falmouth H.S. girls, placed fourth in the USA Women’s Indoor Championships at Madison Square Garden. Falmouth high school junior Johanna Forman won the Women’s 880 in 2:07.9, and anchored the 4x440 relay team to fourth place.
At Carroll’s urging, in 1977 the Mass. State Track Coaches Association sponsored the first indoor Massachusetts Girls High School Championships at Lexington. The organizers were surprised that nearly 800 girls participated in the meet. The Falmouth team won the first of its many team titles.
Gradually, more and more high schools organized indoor track teams and schedule dual- and tri-meet competitions which the Falmouth teams dominated, amassing an impressive record of 115-3 and three State Championships. But Carroll did not abandon the out-of-state competitions, where his more talented athletes could sharpen their skills and succeed against better competition than was found in Massachusetts. Over the years track statisticians have told Carroll his athletes held four national high school best marks in the 4x220, 4x200, sprint medley, 4x400 and 4x800 relays.
In the spring of 1974, the girls’ team won their first outdoor state championship. Seeing an almost inevitable trend, the school administration moved Carroll from the boys’ program to the head coaching position for the girls. With a high school dual meet schedule in place, Carroll’s teams ammassed a 168-8 record. They won eight State Championships, one New England Championship, and 17 league championships. He was the director of the Falmouth Girls Invitational for 20 years, a meet that hosted almost 1,000 girls each year, where Fully Automatic Timing and Hytek were used years before the state meets.
As a co-director of the Falmouth Road Race, Carroll was instrumental in 1993 in having the road race underwrite the cost of a 400-meter Mondo track at Falmouth High School, the first such high school facility in the U.S.
Over his 28-year coaching career Carroll coached over 1,000 girls. They won 40 individual State Championships, 77 Divisional Championships, about 25 relays, and he produced 47 “All-Scholastic” runners and eight Boston Globe and Boston Herald “Athletes of the Year.” He earned earned nine “Coach of the Year” awards.
The National High School Athletic Coaches Association honored him as National H.S. Girls Track and Field Coach of the Year in 1996, after winning the NHSACA District I Coach of the Year in 1983 and 1996.
He was inducted into the State Track Coaches Hall of Fame in 1989, received the Pathmark Award given at the N.S.I.C. meet in March 1992 for “Outstanding Contributions to High School Track & Field,” was inducted into the St. John’s Prep School (his alma mater) “Athletic Hall of Fame” in 1993, and he will be inducted into the Falmouth High School Hall of Fame this spring, the first year he became eligible.
He is still involved in Mass. high school track and field as a member of the MSTCA executive board, is the meet director for the MSTCA State Relays in the winter and spring and the MSTCA Winter Festival. He is also the announcer for high school meets at the Reggie Lewis Center.
John Carroll was born and grew up in the greater Boston area. He attended St. John’s Prep School where his love of track was born and was fostered by the legendary coach, Brother Patrician. Carroll went on to compete for Boston College where he earned his bachelor’s degree, after which he traveled to Baghdad, Iraq to teach English at a Jesuit-run high school for two years. He earned a masters degree from Indiana University and taught English as a second language at Hartford (Conn.) Public High School. After two years, he moved to Falmouth, Mass. to teach and coach. He and his wife of 38 years, Lucia, still live in Falmouth. They have two grown children, Christine of Denver, Colo. and John, of Destin, Fla., a captain in the U.S. Air Force.