Pete Farwell '73 celebrates four decades as head coach of cross country
Cassie Deshong '21
This story originally appeared in the September 12, 2018 edition of The Williams Record
In high school, Pete Farwell '73 began his running career and fell in love, partly because of his love for nature. "It is nice to be connected with [nature] on a daily basis," Farwell said. "I am not a city person. I liked Williams for that." After running all four years during his time at Williams, Farwell continued to run and went to various road races. In Farwell's 23 years of competitive running, he set the six-mile Williams record and finished 23rd at the Boston Marathon with a time of 2:20.
When Farwell returned to the College for an alumni race, he was informed by a few high school students from Williamstown about an open track and field head coach position for next season. Having never considered coaching prior to this opportunity, Farwell applied and began coaching at the high school. From there, he eventually joined the College as the head coach of men's cross country in 1979.
Currently, cross country is one of the biggest teams on campus, with 40 people on the men's team and 25 people on the women's team. Farwell could have easily reduced the team to a smaller size, but he prefers to share the joy in running with more people. "If those people can display a love for running and want to be on a team even though they are a bit slow, they are welcomed," Farwell said. "It is a lot easier to have a 12 to 15 person team, but I want to share that love for running with more people. In our last meet, 10 or 11 of the last people were from our team. But among those guys, we have some of our best leaders, people with the best work ethic, the ones that improve the most, the ones that cheer the most. They contribute a lot, and the whole team appreciates that."
Farwell believes that dedication to the sport and love for running makes the best runners, not necessarily pure talent. So, he puts in effort to make sure his athletes are enjoying themselves. "I am just trying to express the joy of being together a lot," Farwell said. "You can be a little nutty and outgoing. Let people know who you are without qualm. We run better when we are smiling. They are looser for meets when they aren't being internal."
Farwell's genuine love for running is apparent to his athletes, and numerous team members believe his joy for the sport is what makes being part of the team great and fun. "Getting to be a part of a team that is led by Coach Pete has been one of the highlights of my time at Williams, and the attitude he projects as a coach has changed my perspective on running a lot," co-captain Emily Harris '19 said. "For instance, Pete plans runs for us with deliberate look-outs (i.e., an annual run up Mt. Greylock, easy runs at Mt. Hope, trail runs along the Taconic Crest) with the goal of having us appreciate running in such a beautiful place and in good company."
More importantly, his athletes believe in him and his advice. "We trust him, and because we believe in Pete, we are able to believe in our training, and in ourselves," co-captain Austin Anderson '19 said. "In addition to being amazingly knowledgeable and experienced, Pete has a true love for the sport, and that spirit is the foundation of our team's approach to running. In the midst of NCAA championships, technical workouts and complex training philosophy, GPS watches and heart rate monitors, Pete helps us remember that we run because we love to run. We love trails, we love working hard and we love our team."
Farwell's end goal isn't to see his athletes compete well now, but rather to see them running and enjoying running years later. "The goal is for you to be running when you're 30, 40 or 60 rather than to run two seconds faster in the 5k when you are 21," co-captain Zeke Cohen '19 said. "As a coach, he gets you to perform your best, but if you feel like you are working too hard or exhausted, he always listens."
With such a large team of varying levels of talent, it is easy for people, especially the ones who aren't as fast, to feel forgotten. However, that is not the case on this team. "As someone who is definitely towards the back of the team, Pete still has shown a commitment to my running," George Arrowsmith '21 said. "He cares about how I am running even if I won't impact how the team does as a whole. He has always given me lots of coaching attention regardless of my position on the team, which is really unique and is something I really appreciate about him."
Farwell actively seeks out his athletes. He wants to get to know his athletes better and to see them improve. "I wish I could get to know them even more," Farwell said. "I like to connect with them all. I have a pretty good idea of who they are, but not absolutely, like what they are taking in school. I know their personas."
Coming back from Saturday's Little Threes meet, Harris recalled seeing Farwell checking in with everyone about the race.
"I'm sitting on the bus back from our first race of the season right now, and I watched Pete make his way through probably 55 people on the bus to check in with every one of his athletes about how they felt about their races," Harris said. "He did the same thing pre-race. Seeing him actively seek out one-on-one time with everyone – especially on a pretty large team – and watching how engaged his athletes are during those short chats is, I think, a pretty good anecdote to illustrate what I think is special about Pete as a coach." It is the small things that Farwell does that lets his athletes know he cares.
Farwell has been coaching at the College for 40 years. Since becoming the head coach of the men's team, Farwell has had 38 All-Americans, including two national champions. Since 1993, the men's teams has finished in the top-10 17 times at the NCAA championship meet. In 1994, Farwell was named National Coach of the Year.
The men's team has won 13 New England regional titles, has been runner-up five times and has come in third four times. They also have 15 NESCAC titles and eight ECAC titles, resulting in Farwell receiving nine Regional Coach of the Year honors.
In 2000, Farwell began coaching the women's team and has had 29 All-Americans, including one national champion. In 2002, 2004 and 2015, the women won the NCAA title. In the past 17 years, the women's team has placed in the top eight every year.
In addition, the women's team has won four New England regional titles, has nine runners-up finishes and two third places. These are on top of seven NESCAC titles and five ECAC titles. Farwell was awarded the Women's Regional Coach of the Year four times, NESCAC Coach of the Year four times and National Coach of the Year three times.
In December 2017, Pete Farwell was inducted into the United States Track and Field Cross Country Coaches Association Hall of Fame.