Coaching career at WMHS spanned nearly 50 years

Published in the January 27, 2016 edition

BURLINGTON – Former Wakefield Memorial High School cross country and track coach John DiComandrea is recovering at the Lahey Hospital after a surgical procedure on his left leg recently.

DiComandrea, 88, was in good spirits according to WMHS girls’ indoor track coach Jim Duff who visited “Coach Deke” last Saturday after hearing about his hospital stay at the Massachusetts State Track Coaches Association Invitational Meet in Boston.

Duff and DiComandrea both starting coaching at Wakefield Memorial High School in the mid-1960s. DiComandrea was also a shop teacher in the Wakefield school system for many years.

Word spread about DiComandrea among track circles and through social media.

Five years ago, DiComandrea was hospitalized and underwent an angioplasty in his lower right leg and foot to get his circulation going after the blood flow to that area of his body was interrupted.

DiComandrea initially had trouble with his right foot and lower leg at the end of the indoor track season in 2011. The then 83-year-old coach eventually was hospitalized at Melrose-Wakefield Hospital before being transferred to Massachusetts General Hospital.

During that time, DiComandrea underwent many tests to determine why blood was not getting through to the leg and foot.

After that procedure, DiComandrea was transferred to the Spaulding Rehabilitation Center in North Station in Boston for the rehabilitation of his leg and foot.

DiComandrea, a Revere resident, called it a career in 2012 when he retired from coaching cross country and track marking the end of a career that began in 1964 and spanned nearly 50 years.

In the fall of ‘12, DiComandrea led the Warrior boys’ cross country team to its first ever Middlesex League Small School championship as the squad posted a 7-0 overall record and 5-0 mark in the M.L. Small division in his swan song. Wakefield also won the M.L. meet even beating M.L. Large School champion Lexington.

In the postseason, the Warriors finished fourth in the Div. 4 meet to end his fine cross country career.

In the winter season, the boys indoor track finished up the year with a 4-2 overall record and 3-2 mark in the M.L. Small division.

During the 1964-65 school year in DiComandrea’s first year as the cross country coach, the team posted a 7-1 record, losing to Stoneham by a score of 25-30. By the 1970-71 school year, the WMHS cross country team had amassed 55 consecutive wins, a streak broken in 1971 at 60 consecutive wins.

In 1973, the team’s perfect 9-0 record gave DiComandrea his ninth league championship in 10 years, and a Div. 2 state championship, repeated the following year.

The winning ways continued and, by 1976, the team had a record of 104-4. League titles were won in 1981, (the Warriors were runner-ups in the Div. 3 state meet), and 1982 (the Warriors were Div. 3 state champions).

The girls’ cross country team began in 1977 under the direction of DiComandrea. The team won the Middlesex League championship in its first year of competition in ‘77 and retained the title the following year. In its first five years, the girls’ cross country team won three league championships. The Warriors brought the title home again from 1983 through 1985, and were Div. 2 state champions in 1983 and 1984.

In 1986, DiComandrea was inducted into the Massachusetts State Track Coaches Association Hall of Fame. He was inducted into the WMHS Athletic Hall of Fame on May 4, 1996 during the fifth induction ceremonies.

DiComandrea also coached the girls’ indoor track team for a stint at one time.

DiComandrea graduated from Watertown High School in 1945 and ran at Eastern Michigan University. It was the late 1940s when he started running marathons.

He was the third American to cross the finish line in the 1955 running of the Boston Marathon. He finished 12th overall in a time of 2:27. A Wakefield Daily Item column in September of that year noted, “His steadfast training practice of running 10 miles each night and his unyielding efforts in any race from three to 26 miles have reaped John a harvest of some 150 trophies, cups and medals.”

In 2008, at 80 years old, he ran the Boston Marathon in 5:32:14.

DiComandrea continued to run in area races until ‘11 when his health prevented him from doing so.