In 1976 the average cost of a house was $43,400 and the average U.S. income per year was $16,000. During that year Steve Jobs started Apple Computer, USSR gymnast Nadia Comaneci scored a perfect score at the Olympics and Jim Stronach set a school record in the mile (4:15) at Tewksbury High School.
Since then housing costs have skyrocketed then plummeted, an income of $16,000 is below the poverty line, Steve Jobs is no longer employed, the USSR dissolved and Nadia Comaneci became a US Citizen. One constant during all those years was Jim’s mile record. It stood for an amazing 37 years before being broken by Cory Thomas. For some, having a record that stood that long would be the highlight of their athletic career; not so for Jim. For this Tewksbury High School Hall of Famer it was just the beginning of many outstanding accomplishments over a long career.
Jim began running when he was an eighth grader. Under the coaching of his grandfather, Henry LeSage, an outstanding runner with the North Medford Club, Jim would start a running career distinctively marked by great coaching that always equaled great running. It’s no coincidence that one preceded the other.
Tewkbury High School Career
In high school Jim was two time Merrimack Valley Conference (MVC) champion setting seven MVC course records in the process. He finished 2nd in the state meet and 11th in the all state meet. The success continued indoors where he was state champion in the Mile and two time MVC mile champion. During his senior year he set league and school records in the 600 (1:19), 1000 (2:20) mile (4:27) and 2 mile (9:37), the school record for the mile was lowered to (4:23.6). Jim also excelled outdoors when in his senior year he was the State (4:21), All-State (4:15) and New England Champion (4:17) in the mile, MVC champion in the 2 mile his sophomore year (10:00) and MVC mile champion in his senior year (4:21).
Boston State College and Bill Squires
After high school it was off to Boston State College where Jim would have the great fortune of running for the legendary Bill Squires all four years. Coach Squires is considered the greatest American distance coach of all time. Recently Alberto Salazar, a competitor of Jim’s in high school, commented about Squires that he was indirectly responsible for the Olympic successes of Mo Farah and Galen Rupp last summer. “I had other great coaches like [Bill] Bowerman and [Bill] Dellinger,” Salazar said, “but I learned more from you, Coach, than from anyone else. And the lessons you taught me are the ones I pass along to athletes like Mo and Galen today.” These are the same lessons that Jim learned and is now passing along to athletes he coaches.
During his college career Jim competed in the X-Country Division III nationals all four years. He made All ECAC team 3 years and All New England team 2 years. He was MASCAC Champion 3 years. Like high school he experienced similar success with both indoor and outdoor track; During his indoor career he set numerous records including the freshman record in 3 mile (14:15), the mile (4:10) and 2 mile (9:10). Outdoors he competed in the Div III nationals for 3 years in the 10,000 meters, was MASCAC champion 4 years in the 10,000 and his record of 31:46 set in 1978 still stands today. He also ran PRs of 14:40 for the 5K and 30:11 for the 10K. In 2007 Jim was inducted into the Boston State Running Hall of Fame.
After college Jim continued running and joined the GLRR in 1982. He would spend the next several decades running and volunteering for the green. In 2011, Jim along with his wife Nancy was inducted into the GLRR Hall of Fame. Jim and Nancy became the first married couple inducted into the Hall. In 2008 Jim joined the coaching staff of the Gate City Striders. Quickly the results of his coaching skills were realized as GCS was on a path of five consecutive Mill Cities Relay Championships. In 2010 Jim left Gate City to become the head coach for his home club the GLRR. Now he is imparting his wisdom and experience on a whole new generation of eager runners and the results are already evident. Remember, great coaching equals great running; it’s no coincidence.