Dudley O’Leary, 89; hall of fame high school track coach in Weymouth

Dudley O’Leary coached for three decades in Weymouth.
Dudley O’Leary coached for three decades in Weymouth.

When Weymouth High School narrowly won the boys’ Class A outdoor track state championship in 1968, head coach Dudley O’Leary asked senior Bill Rand, who tied for third in the discus, to accept the team trophy.

“Two and a half points we had never expected,” Mr. O’Leary told the Globe’s Leigh Montville that day, as he spoke about Rand’s contribution. “And what do we win by? One-half point.”

Rand said recently that looking back, he appreciated his coach’s gesture.


“I was middle-tier, out there every day grinding,” Rand recalled. “I was surprised because our captains usually took the trophy. Being recognized that way by Coach O’Leary meant a lot to me.”

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A founding member of the Massachusetts State Track Coaches Association and an inductee to its Hall of Fame, Mr. O’Leary died Jan. 17 in Brigham and Women’s Hospital from influenza and meningitis. He was 89 and lived in Milton.

As a youngster, Mr. O’Leary would run along the shore during family excursions to Wollaston Beach in Quincy.

That was a prelude to his career as a standout high school and college sprinter, a coach, and physical education teacher in Weymouth, and a respected meet official and state director of track for the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association.

“Whether it was coaching, officiating, or as a meet director, for Dudley, it was all about the kids,” said MIAA track committee chairman Chris Lane. “He was tireless in that regard and would be willing to go anywhere, anytime, to support track, and he was very good at what he did.”


Starting in 1962 and continuing for three decades, Mr. O’Leary was a track coach and physical education teacher at Weymouth and Weymouth North high schools.

A former Milton High and Boston University track captain, he was a stickler for technique and a believer in the team concept. His boys’ cross-country and indoor and outdoor track teams in Weymouth all won state championships. Later in his career, he also coached girls’ track.

Dr. Thomas Vorderer, a podiatrist who had been a Weymouth North record-setting track captain in the mid-1970s, said Mr. O’Leary “was into biomechanics, and the drills he taught me in high school, I teach my patients now. He wasn’t a coach who became your best friend, but he brought out the best in you.”

Larry Ames, a former Globe high school sports editor, said Mr. O’Leary and his close friend Bob McIntyre teamed up to direct “the most efficient and well-run high-level meets.” Ames added that they were instrumental in pushing for what is now the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center in Boston.

Mr. O’Leary was also an advocate for girls’ track. As the newly elected president of the Massachusetts State Track Coaches Association in 1976, he helped expand the girls’ field for the Coaches Relays to two divisions.


At the inaugural one-division girls’ relays that year, Mr. O’Leary told the Globe that “the turnout and enthusiasm was so great that we have to start looking ahead right now.”

Born in Boston, Dudley Francis O’Leary was a son of Walter D. O’Leary, a Globe reporter for more than 50 years, and the former Catherine Drew.

In addition to starring on the track team at Milton High, Mr. O’Leary played varsity football and basketball.

Coached and mentored at Milton by Arnold Adams, a former Bates College quarter-miler and 1932 US Olympian, Mr. O’Leary capped off his high school track career in June 1947 by winning the 440-yard run at the South Shore Track & Field Interscholastic Championships.

“Dudley had strong legs, a great kick, and an unbelievable will to win,” recalled his brother Walter of Braintree. “And Arnie Adams helped him get a scholarship to Boston University.”

Mr. O’Leary, who attended Huntington Preparatory School for a year after graduating from Milton, kept up his winning ways at BU. He excelled in the 100- and 200-yard dashes and the 440-yard run, and was the 1952 New England Intercollegiate quarter-mile champion his senior season.

After receiving a master’s degree from BU in 1953, Mr. O’Leary began his career as a teacher-coach at Tilton-Northfield High School in New Hampshire and at Attleboro High School. His first outdoor track team at Weymouth, in 1963, began a streak of 50 consecutive victories that lasted through 1969.

Mr. O’Leary was an inductee to the Milton High and Weymouth High athletic halls of fame and a past president of the Massachusetts Track & Field Officials Association. He was a longtime official at the Boston Marathon and Falmouth Road Race.

A service has been held for Mr. O’Leary, who in addition to his brother Walter leaves two sons, Michael of Falmouth and Walter of Milton; three daughters, Karen Barrows of Merritt Island, Fla., Marianne Carter of Bangor, Maine, and Susan Stocks of Oroville, Calif.; another brother, Edmund of West Roxbury; a sister, Marilyn Bowen of Dennis; 11 grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.

Mr. O’Leary’s marriage to the former Theresa Mikulski ended in divorce.

He took great pride in how his son Walter, and Walter’s wife, Tara, and their children, Colette and Elise, followed in his footsteps as varsity runners at Milton High. He would greet them with “Hi, gang” and leave them with “Bye, gang.”

Chris Lane of the MIAA said Mr. O’Leary loved to talk about the success his family had at Milton High, but noted that “he never talked about his own accomplishments.”

Ed Meehan, Mr. O’Leary’s assistant coach at Weymouth High from 1965 to 1970, said he was a student of the sport, outgoing and gregarious, and gave everything of himself to his athletes.

“Dudley was a competitor who wanted to win and wanted his teams to experience that same feeling,” said Meehan, “and he was a force in Massachusetts high school track for more than 50 years.”

Marvin Pave can be reached at