Bacon Academy track rededicated to honor Jack Long

By Kevin Hotary - Staff Writer
Colchester - posted Mon., May. 16, 2011
Jack Long greets the crowd at the track rededication. Photos by Kevin Hotary.
Jack Long greets the crowd at the track rededication. Photos by Kevin Hotary.

For nearly 50 years now, the name Jack Long and Bacon Academy track have been nearly synonymous. Starting as track coach in 1962, Long is largely responsible for bringing all of the major boys’ and girls’ track and field and cross-country sports to the school, amassing 784 wins over a coaching career that lasted until 1996, the year he was inducted into the Connecticut High School Coaches Hall of Fame. 

But all of those victories only tell part of the story of Jack Long.  Early in his coaching career, in a time when female athletics were largely ignored, Long promoted girls’ track, and is responsible for starting both the girls’ track and cross-country teams at Bacon Academy.

“That’s one of the things that I’m most proud of,” said Long on May 10, as he came back to Colchester and Bacon Academy from his current home in Florida to be honored by the school and the town in a ceremony rededicating the newly-surfaced Bacon Academy track in his name.

“He was a major proponent of girls’ track,” said current Bacon Academy boys’ track coach Steve Browning, who led the dedication ceremony that briefly interrupted the meet between Bacon Academy, New London and Killingly High Schools.

In fact, the list of Long’s accomplishments during his tenure at Bacon is very lengthy. The coach of three girls’ state champion teams, Long was named Connecticut High School Coach of the Year twice, in 1988 and 1992, and was named National Coach of the Year in girls’ track in 1992. In addition to the state championships, his teams won four invitational championships. Long also directed a number of individual and conference meets and served as president of the COC and of the Eastern Connecticut Track and Cross Country Association. In the 1990s, Long started an indoor invitational meet that has since become an indoor series – the Jack Long Invitational – that last year hosted more than 2,000 high school athletes.

“He turned over his entire roster at least twice while he was winning those state titles,” marveled Browning. “Many of the records that his kids set stood for years.”

While Long joked that it’s unusual for a person to still be alive when a facility is named after him, Board of Education Chairman Ronald Goldstein attributed the naming to the strong sense of heritage in the town. He remarked on the groundswell of support the school and the town received when it began plans for renovating the track, saying “and I attribute that to you [Long]. We thank you for your legacy here.”

Although the track is home to the Bacon Academy teams, it “is a community track. This is something for all of the athletes in Colchester,” said First Selectman Greg Shuster. And with that, everyone in attendance was invited to take a “victory lap” around the track. Soon the track was filled with spectators and the members of all three track teams, many chanting Long’s name as they walked or ran on their “jog for Jack.”

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