Barry Harwick ’77 retires as track and field and cross country director

by Matt Krivan and Ethan Strauss | 8/21/20 3:00am

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Source: Photo by Gil Talbot

After 28 years coaching the Big Green, Barry Harwick ’77, director of the track and field and cross country programs, announced his retirement from the program effective September 30. During his tenure, Harwick led the men’s cross country team to six Ivy League Heptagonal Championships titles and 10 NCAA Championship appearances. All of the teams Harwick has coached at Dartmouth— including the men’s and women’s track and field and cross country teams — have thrived under his guidance. 

Harwick’s ties to Dartmouth date back to his time as a student-athlete and as a highly accomplished captain of the track team. His athletic resume includes All-Ivy honors in cross country, participation in two NCAA Championships, a former school record in the mile run, the Harmon Award for distance running and the Palmer Award for contributions to Dartmouth track. 

In 1980, just a few years after graduating from Dartmouth, Harwick began his coaching career at Bentley University when he joined the staff as head coach of track and cross country. He found success as soon as he took the reins — the Falcons won six Northeast-10 cross country titles during Harwick’s 12-year stint, earning him Coach of the Year awards from the Northeast-10, ECAC and NCAA District 1. Harwick’s success at Bentley caught Dartmouth’s eye, and the College brought him to Hanover prior to the 1992-1993 season. At Dartmouth, Harwick took over a historically successful program and continued to adapt in an increasingly competitive Ivy League.

“In terms of success, I was fortunate that I came into a program that had already achieved a lot of really good things,” Harwick said. “So I think in a lot of ways, it was just a question of continuing forward. I take a lot of pride in the fact that I've worked really hard to keep Dartmouth up to a very high standard.”

Harwick’s athletes past and present will remember him not only for his accomplishments but also for his compassion, good advice and leadership. Throughout his years with the team, Harwick showed genuine affection towards his players, running his team as an athletic family. 

“The biggest thing is that he is very compassionate and caring; he really cared about us as people more so than just runners,” men’s cross country runner Owen Ritz ’21 said. “I think that differentiated our program from some of the other schools in the league. [Harwick] treats us like adults and trusts us to invest the time and energy into being great runners.”

These interactions over the last 28 years helped to create the vibrant and active Big Green cross country community that exists today. For Harwick, the unity among team alumni and current athletes is a source of pride. 

“I tell everybody, even our incoming first-year students, that their involvement with the team is going to last a lot longer than four years,” Harwick said. “And I'd like to think that, over the time that I've been at Dartmouth, a lot of people really bought into that philosophy, and I certainly hope that that will continue well into the future.”

Harwick is also proud of the individual and team accomplishments during his years on campus. He worked with some of the best athletes in school history, including All-Americans Tom McArdle ’03, Ben True ’08 and Will Geoghagen ’14. Transforming an already skilled runner into a top national athlete was one of Harwick’s favorite aspects of coaching. 

“After he announced his retirement, a lot of alums were texting and calling,” Ritz said. “It was really cool to see the outpouring of support for coach Harwick because he had an awesome career and it is all very well deserved.”

Harwick’s decision to join his wife in retirement this year was spurred by the combination of COVID-19-related uncertainties clouding the 2020-21 season and a generous early retirement package offered by the school. After Dartmouth decided to limit each student’s on-campus enrollment to at most two terms, Harwick realized that his prized team unity would be physically non-existent. 

Harwick will continue to coach into September but already has plans for the next phase of his life. He and his wife Marcia will spend time relaxing at their Cape Cod home this fall and plan on traveling to Europe once they are able. In retirement, he will continue as a member of the wider Dartmouth cross country community and looks forward to supporting the team in person once athletic competition resumes. 

“I've already promised a number of people, both current and alumni, that whenever the next Heptagonal Championships take place, and I'm not sure when that's going to be, I plan to be there just to be able to watch the excitement and certainly cheer on the Dartmouth team,” Harwick said.

Dartmouth’s search for Harwick’s replacement has already begun. The athletics department will need to fill Harwick’s two positions as men’s distance coach and director of track and field and cross country. His will be tough shoes to fill; a replacement will need to coach three consecutive seasons each year and deal with the ramifications of the pandemic. However, the school will surely benefit from the magnitude of Harwick’s presence in the cross country community. In part due to his experience serving as the president of the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association, his advice will be invaluable to the office charged with finding a replacement.

Once the COVID-19 pandemic ends, Harwick hopes to see the Dartmouth cross country program continue its national success. He believes that the team’s talent and recruiting prowess will allow it to remain competitive at the Ivy League and NCAA levels.

“I was incredibly excited about this fall,” Harwick said. “You know, last fall, out of 35 teams at the regional meet, we [came in sixth]. We've got virtually all of our top runners coming back and we recruited very well. Last year, we had a lot of injuries and those guys are getting healthy now. So I fully expected the cross country team to be able to contend for a trip to the NCAA championships.”

It will undoubtedly take some time for Dartmouth runners to get used to life without the man who has been the face of the program for almost three decades. But for the runners he coached, Harwick will be remembered for his good advice, mentorship and genuine love for the sport.

“If you were to ask any cross country alum over the last 25 years, when they think of Dartmouth cross country, [Harwick] would be one of the first things that come to mind,” Ritz said. “He was almost like the institution of our team because he had been the coach for so long and generations of runners had been coached by him, doing the same things. They will be inseparable; between Dartmouth cross country and [Harwick] there is still a connection.”

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