Patrick Dougherty
Coach
Inducted in 2007
Patrick Dougherty first taught at McAlister Middle School and then Suffield High School, starting in 1968. He taught Math and History at McAlister and Social Studies at SHS. He retired from teaching in 1999. He also retired from the U.S. Army Reserves at that time.
Coach Dougherty started Suffield High School’s girls cross country, track, and indoor track programs around 1970 with Becky Gibson-Laemel as an assistant. They began as club programs at McAlister and soon evolved into high school varsity teams. Due to his early prominence as a coach, the cross country high school State Open was held in Suffield in the early 1970’s. It is now held annually at Wickham Park in Manchester. Those familiar with the Title IX legislation of 1972 and the dramatic changes and opportunities that it brought to women’s athletics, can appreciate the challenges in funding and respect that female athletes, girls teams, and Patrick faced prior to Title IX and for many years following its passage. Attitudes towards female athletes did not change overnight, but Coach Dougherty always treated his team members as the disciplined, smart, and tough athletes they were. He was a tireless advocate for their equal treatment.
Pat has coached Suffield girls cross country running for almost 35 years and he also coached the boys team for a period of time. He was honored as the Connecticut Girls Cross Country Coach of the Year in 1981. A highlight in Pat’s coaching career occurred in 2001, when his SHS girls team earned 6th place at the Connecticut State Open (in which all teams from smallest to largest classes run). That high placement in the Open earned Suffield a spot on the New England Championship, the first time a team from Suffield (or for that matter, the NCCC Conference) ever earned a trip to a New England level event! The team placed 11th in the elite competition.
In the early 1980s Coaches Dougherty and Gibson-Laemel mapped out a new cross country course using the ideal environment of Bruce Park. Other NCCC schools followed their lead and cross country changed from a “road race” to the safer, off-road, truly “cross country” courses that we have today. For over 30 years, Coach Dougherty has retained a female assistant coach (usually one of his former runners) to be sure the girls have a female to talk to.
Patrick’s former athletes include Melanie Schorr, who was an outstanding runner at Dartmouth College where she was an All-American in Division I cross country and Kristina Miner who continues a premier running career at Trinity College in Hartford.
Pat decided that the 2002 season would be his last and “retired”. Current and former team members, from the class of 1976 through the class of 2006, attended his retirement party. While working as an official at state track meets in the spring of 2004, young SHS runners that he had never coached in cross country, but who had heard about how wonderful a coach he was, literally begged him to return from retirement when the position had opened up again. They wore him down, and he returned as the girls cross country coach for the 2004 season. He continues to this day to coach girls cross country, and he assists Joe Sinicrope with the track and field team as distance running coach.
In November 2005, Patrick was honored with the dedication of the “Kathleen Dougherty Memorial Bridge” and the “Patrick Dougherty Cross Country Trail” at Bruce Park in Suffield in recognition of his contributions to Suffield High School running programs and the heartfelt loss of his only daughter, whose memorial donations funded the construction of the little bridge in the late 1990s. Colleagues, parents, administrators and town officials joined current and former team members to celebrate the dedication.
Three decades of runners have been coached by Pat, who is dedicated to instilling the value and rewards of the hard (and sometimes solitary) work of distance running. His runners are taught the tough lessons of endurance, discipline, competitive challenge, and teamwork. Pat and his wife make their home in Manchester.