Legendary Chelsea HS cross country coach J. Barry Dwyer dies at 82

The first time J. Barry Dwyer met Bobby Goss was when Goss was in the seventh grade at the Williams School.

“Coach Dwyer was starting a junior varsity cross country team,” said Goss. “He got a lot of kids involved in running back then.”

Coach Dwyer, who was so inventive in his training methods and so intelligent in his strategy, knew what he had in Goss, a budding superstar who would not lose a dual meet in his high school career while setting national mile records.

Coach Dwyer would build a cross country powerhouse at Chelsea High with runners like Goss, the famed Richard brothers, Kenny, Jimmy, Jack, and Ed, the talented Rosati brothers, Anthony and Paul, and the B and B Express, Richie Bradley and Greg Benson, leading the way against much larger schools in the Greater Boston League.

“Coach Dwyer was like a father figure to me, a mentor who just kept me in line,” said Goss. “He was always there for me, just like he was for all the runners who preceded and followed me. “Everyone enjoyed him. Everybody loved him. He just had that aura about him.”

J. Barry Dwyer, a member of the Chelsea School Committee who became a cross country and track coach and led the CHS harriers to three consecutive GBL titles and a Class D state championship, died on August 22. He was 82.

Like Bobby Goss said, Dwyer was more than just a coach to his athletes. He was an adviser, a friend, someone you could depend on for support and encouragement, even after you had graduated from his program.

“He taught me everything, what to do, how to do it – he kept building my confidence up and I wasn’t afraid of anybody,” said Goss, who credits Dwyer for helping him receive a scholarship to the University of Texas at El Paso, a collegiate giant in the sport of cross country.

Ed Richard and Jack Richard remembered what a master tactician Dwyer was and how he became a positive influence in so many of his student-athletes’ lives.

Ed Richard, who starred on three consecutive GBL championship teams (1974-76) that built a 52-meet winning streak, said Dwyer succeeded his mentor, Bernard Berenson, who had retired as coach in 1970.

“Coach Dwyer just stood right up at a School Committee meeting and volunteered  – he said to Andrew Quigley, ‘I’ll be the coach’.”

It didn’t take Dwyer long to put his footprint on the program.

“He started implementing his ideas about distance running and he studied a lot of the great distance running coaches at the time like Arthur Lydiard of New Zealand,” said Ed Richard.

The team was 14-2 in Dwyer’s third year as coach, and when Ed Richard and Bobby Goss joined forces to give Chelsea the most dynamic 1-2 tandem ever, the team went undefeated over the next three seasons.

“That summer he had us training around the clock,” recalled Ed. “Our first meet of the season, they had junior varsity and varsity teams in the GBL. Coach Dwyer didn’t want to show off Bobby and show the league my progress right away, so he made a move where he put Bobby and me into the junior varsity race. So, what does Bobby Goss do? He’s a freshman and he breaks the course record and I come in second. The league was stunned. In the next meet, we beat Haverhill handily. From that day forward, we won 52 straight meets. In many of the meets, we had the first five finishers, which is a perfect score.”

 Ed Richard recalled how at his first dual meet for the Northeastern University team, Coach Dwyer “came all the way over from Chelsea to cheer me on and encourage me.  I’ll never forget how after that race in the pouring rain, I told him that I was going to wear my Chelsea shirt at Northeastern camp. He was very supportive even after I left Chelsea High.”

Ed added appreciatively, “Coach Dwyer taught us important life lessons that we all took forward in our lives.  In 1997, I organized a Chelsea cross country team reunion and Coach Dwyer was there. He seemed on top of the world that day because all of his kids were back.”

Jack Richard, a scholar-athlete in the highest regard who went on to attend Tufts University and Boston College Law School and became a highly successful business owner, would hold gatherings for the NFL Super Bowl each year, and Coach Dwyer would be an annual guest of honor, welcomed and revered by all in attendance.

“Coach Dwyer did a lot for a lot of kids,” said Jack. “And not just the kids who were so great at it, either. He wasn’t like he was just into it for the kids who move his win-loss record ahead. He was very much in it for the right reasons.”

J. Barry Dwyer was a Hall of Fame coach and person in every sense of the honor.

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