Weston Voices: Weston High School’s John Monz
Two weeks ago, the Boston Globe named Weston High School’s John Monz as Coach of the Year for the eighth time. For those of you who don’t know “Monz” (I am pretty sure that 80% of those who know him call him only by “Monz. “One Owlet was unaware he had a first name–or perhaps thought it was “coach”), he is the cross country, indoor track and outdoor track coach. He has also taught math at the high school for 25 years and is wisely retiring at the end of this year, just before the Owlets would arrive in his algebra classes. Fortunately for the Wildcats, he plans to continue coaching cross-country and outdoor track for a few more years, swanning in to volunteer at a few meets in the indoor track season (again, wisely choosing to spend the majority of the Boston winter traveling after retirement. Smart man, Monz).
Speaking of smarts, Monz has a day job, at least for now. He teaches AP Statistics, honors algebra, precalculus, and discrete mathematics at Weston High School. He originally came to Weston because the high school was in need of a statistics teacher–and AP Statistics remains his favorite subject to teach. A Boston College alum, Monz also holds a law degree from Harvard no less, and an economics graduate degree from MIT. Wow. While at BC, Monz ran cross country, indoor and outdoor track for all four years, mostly specializing in distance events.
As the Owl asked around about Monz, the words that came up more than any others were “respect” and “encouragement.” According to a few parents, there is no coach in Massachusetts as well-respected as Monz, at the very least in the high school running arena. And “respect” was also mentioned for how Monz treats his athletes–along with positive encouragement no matter how the runner did. He is relentlessly positive and supportive–and therefore the Owl is a major fan.
Julie Hohenberg ’22 commented: “To many of us athletes, Monz’s knowledge of cross country and track is beyond our imagination. He is so good at what he does, and knows his athletes so well, that we can put our full trust in him without any doubts (how the slogan “In Monz We Trust” came about). One philosophy that Monz has about running is to “Live in the now.” This means that during a hard workout or at a tough point in your race, you should not focus on how much you have left, but focus on what you’re doing in the moment. And before you know it, you can see the finish line! This is something that has stuck with me off the track. Fast times won’t feel comfortable, nor will many of life’s challenges. Words don’t do justice the impact that Monz has had on me (and my teammates).”
The Owl caught up with the Coach by email this past weekend just before the MSTCA D5 Relay Invitational at the Reggie Lewis Center (more on that in the next Owl, go ‘cats).
Owl: When Did You Begin Coaching?
(Monz): I began coaching at WHS during the winter of 1978-79, but there were no openings that year in spring track so I spent a year as an assistant at Newton South. I was the assistant cross-country coach until fall 1995 when I became the head coach. I became the head coach for girls’ indoor track starting in 1980-81 and later became the head coach of both boys’ and girls’ until the 1994-95 season. For outdoor track, I became the lead coach for girls’ track in 1982 and became the coach of both the boys’ and girls’ programs in 1995. In 1996, Bob Maguire (another Hall of Fame coach) came on board as the assistant cross-country coach and the head indoor coach and I became his indoor assistant. Jason (Montrose) came on in around 2008 when Bob retired.
What Sets Weston Apart?
We’ve had a great deal of success in all three of our programs. For example, the girls’ outdoor team has been in the top 6 of our division (roughly 50 schools) every year for the last 10 years, including 4 Second Place finishes. We’ve won the Dual County League Small title 5 of those years. The boys’ outdoor team has been in the top 3 of our division (roughly 50 schools) 5 times in the last 10 years, including 3 divisional championships. The boys have taken the Dual County League Small title in six of those years.
The indoor track results are similar: the boys won the Division 4 championship in both 2019 and 2020, despite being the 2nd smallest school in the division, and the girls’ have had a solid run of top 4 finishes in the divisional meet as well. Girls’ cross-country had a great year this year and also won the Divisional Meet in 2012 with 4 other top 3 finishes in the last 10 years. The 2011 team finished 3rd in the Nike Northeast Regional, against teams from 8 northeast states, and was named one of the top 50 teams in the United States.
We’ve also had quite a number of individuals and relay teams compete at the national level over the years, and we have quite a number of athletes currently competing on the collegiate level. I think one of the things that sets us apart is the way that we run both the boys’ and girls’ programs together as one combined team. Coaches and athletes are working together as one big group. We cooperate on a daily basis, we share each other’s successes and disappointments, and everyone is treated with respect. We also place a lot of emphasis on developing leadership skills for the junior and senior athletes and being a good teammate for everyone. Finally, we emphasize overall athletic development; weight training, core exercises, flexibility, and range of motion. We try to help all of our athletes develop their physical abilities over time, and work to make everyone a better athlete, regardless of their role on the team.
What is Your Favorite Part of Coaching?
My favorite part is being with the athletes every day. We have – and most years we have – a wonderful group of young men and women. We have fun while we work hard and they make practice the best part of the day.
You are an award-winning coach: Hall of Fame in the MSTCA* (inducted 1999), and an 8 time Boston Globe Coach of the Year for D4 including this year. What do you consider your biggest “win” of all time?
Hmmm, that’s a hard one. We’ve had some great moments in competition – Samantha Shepard winning the National Indoor Championship in the pole vault and setting a national high school record in the process back in 2002 is a pretty hard one to beat – but I think in many ways the most satisfying thing we’ve done is put together an “outdoor” winter season last year (Feb-March 2021) when we were still in hybrid school and only high-risk people had vaccines. We were outside, it was cold, the track was snow-covered and we were running on the middle school driveway and parking lots. But we all needed it badly. The students needed to do something together, they hadn’t done much physical activity since fall and most were out of shape, they wanted to be around their friends in a fun context. We coaches needed it too – it had been a very hard and stressful year and to be together with the athletes and doing something we all loved was incredible therapy for all of us. Everybody was so happy every day to come to practice. I’ll never forget it. It reminded me what sport, done correctly, can do for us all.
“Coach Monz’s belief in all of his runners is what makes us successful. Monz sets goals for us that are challenging, but we know from his words that we can achieve them,” said Alessandra Gavris ’25. “I’ll always get nervous before my races and Monz will calm me down. He walks all around the [cross country] course yelling “you look great, keep it up!” and I always believe it because he trusts us, and we all trust him. Coach Monz gives us all a feeling that we can do anything, even when our dreams seem far. The girls team, win or lose, has a sister-like bond and it would not be the same without Coach Monz.”
Thanks, Coach Monz, for encouraging and coaching a generation of runners at Weston High School…and teaching mathy things in your free time 😉
*MSTCA=Massachusetts State Track Coaches Association