The class of 1980 was the first graduating class to have Coach Raymond Carey ‘67 all four years. We're indebted to Robert Youngberg, Ph.D. '80, who wrote this reflection about Coach Carey and the 1980 track team.
None of us possessed blazing speed, yet somehow, we competed with those 4 x 110 relay teams that did. As individual sprinters, we might have placed second as often as we placed first in our respective races. What we had going for us were stellar assistant coaches in John Boyle, Brian Flatley '62, Br. Robert Daily, C.F.X., and Br. Tom Puccio C.F.X. and the confidence instilled by a man with a plan, our passionate head coach, Raymond Carey ‘67. Mr. Carey was a supreme strategist and motivator who knew how to extract the maximum performance from his athletes and the 4 x 110 gambit was an ideal illustration.
As the last event of the dual meet, the outcome of the relay frequently decided which school walked away with the win. When executed without error, the precision blind passes of the 4 x 110 rivaled that of the sweep hand of the finest Swiss watch. When attempted with substandard coaching and inadequate practice, those same passes could resemble a demolition derby of arms and legs. In the seventies, the common mode of baton transfer was the guided underhand pass. Most high school teams employed it. What it lacked in style and grace, it made up for in safety. Drops were rare.
Mr. Carey had other ideas. The overhand blind pass was a different animal. It was cutting edge and allowed the outgoing runner to achieve maximum acceleration before baton transfer. When only one relay team passed in this manner, the other teams appeared to be standing still. Such a competitive advantage did not come without risks. Given both runners were traveling at full speed, the moment of handoff required heightened coordination of movement. Drops were more prevalent, as were the chances of passing outside the passing zone if a runner left prematurely. To be sure, no sound is more disturbing than the death rattle of a baton skittering haplessly across the lanes of a track.
Regardless of the additional risk, there was no alternative. Accept the risk and deal with it or lose to our fleeter foes. Discipline and countless practice passes served as inoculations against potential mistakes. Mr. Carey made certain of that and always ended our practices on a good sequence. Nearly forty years after the fact, the conditioned shouts of, "Go" and "Back" still tingle with neural significance. We did not always outsprint our competition, but, thanks to Mr. Carey, we did always out passed them.
In the spring of 1980, the Prep 4 x 110 relay team remained undefeated in the highly competitive Catholic Conference, placed first in the Catholic Conference league meet, set the school record, and qualified for the States, All-States, and New Englands. These achievements were unthinkable for us as individual competitors. They were only made possible by a tireless, intelligent coach willing to devote extra time to his athletes, after long hours of inspired teaching in the classroom. For 109 seasons, that made all the difference.