WARWICK — On the heels of leading the program to its first state championship in 17 years and just its fifth all time, East Providence High School boys’ outdoor track and field mentor Bob Lyons was chosen by his peers as Coach of the Year.
Lyons, the head coach of the Townies for 14 years, received the honor at the annual Rhode Island Track and Field Awards banquet held Monday, June 17, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel.
“I’m pleasantly surprised. It’s a great honor to be recognized,” said Coach Lyons. “I didn’t do anything differently than I have in the past. It just so happened the kids performed well at the state meet and everything fell into place.”
The Townies won their first state championship since 1996 and just the fifth in school history earlier this month in dramatic fashion, rallying in the final event of the meet, the 4×400 meter relay, to claim the title. Senior Josh Rambert recovered from a stumble near the finish line during the anchor leg of the race to eventually cross second and earn enough points to propel E.P. past Bishop Hendricken.
“It means a lot to me to be recognized by my peers. I’m humbled,” Coach Lyons continued. “But I’m not stupid. I know it’s about the kids. We do the same things every year. Sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t. You just try to improve upon the things that haven’t worked in the past and emphasize the things that have worked.”
Coach Lyons thanked the current EPHS administration and his assistant Mike Almeida for their support this spring. In addition, he said he was gratified to receive congratulatory messages from the likes of Phil Ricci, the EPHS athletic director who hired him for the job, Matt Lopes, a legendary figure in city track and field, and Ed Cronin, his former assistant coach. Coach Lyons also mentioned the influence the late Bill Poland, who coached him in both track and football, had on his career as an athlete and later as a mentor himself.
“I know it sounds corny, but we try to create a family atmosphere around the program. And I’m very appreciative of the support I’ve received,” Coach Lyons added. “It’s the kids who make a coach look good, and they certainly did that this year. They’re the ones who stepped up. I’m very, very proud of the kids. They deserve the recognition much more than I do.”
In addition to the coach of the year award, the Most Valuable Performers from the State Outdoor Meet held June 1 at Brown University were formally recognized as were those athletes who earned first, second and third team All-State honors. East Providence’s Ryan Williams, winner of both the boys’ 100 and 200 meter state titles, was the Sprints MVP. Also of note, Bob Palazzo, of state champ Classical, was chosen as the girls’ Coach of the Year.