Jim Kavanagh enters his 50th season as a coach at Holy Cross and 21st as the Richard L. Ahern ’51 Director of Cross Country, Track and Field in 2019-20. Kavanagh joined the Crusader staff in 1971 as Harold “Skip” O’Connor’s assistant, and was appointed head coach in 1977, when his mentor retired. Coach Kavanagh taught math and coached part-time at Holy Cross for 28 years before accepting the positon of director of men’s and women’s track and cross country on a full time basis in the summer of 1999.
The Holy Cross cross country and track and field programs have had many years of success under Kavanagh’s tutelage. Kavanagh has had five student-athletes named Crusader of the Year and four receive the Honorable John P. Cooney Memorial Award. He has coached seven New England champions, seven Patriot League champions and hundreds of Patriot League Academic Honor Roll student-athletes. Five times, Kavanagh’s student-athletes have been named the Patriot League Scholar Athlete of the year with Dan Conti earning the honor three times (2003 indoor, 2002 and 2003 outdoor).
Conti was also selected to the CoSIDA Academic All-America team twice (2002 and 2003), along with Emily Hogan in 2001.
In 2017, Hannah Jeter finished fifth overall at the Patriot League Championships and earned a spot on the First-Team All-Patriot League. Zoe Matherne and Jenna Gasparrini qualified for the Second-Team All-Patriot League. The team finished fifth overall.
In 2016, the women’s cross country team ran for third place at the Patriot League Championship with both Hannah Jeter and Annie Sullivan receiving first team All-Patriot League recognition. The team also placed second at the ECAC Championship, its best-ever finish in the championship race, as six runners were named to the All-ECAC team. Jeter was selected as Patriot League Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
In 2011, all of Kavanagh’s hard work and dedication to Holy Cross athletics was honored as he was inducted to the Holy Cross Hall Of Fame.
The 2011 cross country teams placed 23 members on the Patriot League Academic Honor Roll with 15 women and eight men. Twenty-one student-athletes from the men’s track and field team were also recognized by the league for academic achievements. Women’s cross country runner Paige Sutherland earned Patrtiot League and ECAC Runner of the Week after finishing 18th of 269 runners at the New England Championship.
The 2010 cross country season saw the women’s team place fifth at the Patriot League Championship and the men take seventh. Twenty four members of the cross country teams were named to the Patriot League Academic Honor Roll, along with 29 members of the men’s track and field team. At the 2011 Patriot League Outdoor Championship, Chase Bradford led the Crusaders with a second place finish in the javelin.
Kavanagh led the 2009 women’s cross country team to a fifth place finish at the Patriot League Championship, the team’s best finish since the 2001 season. Sutherland became the first women’s runner since 1998 to earn first team All-Patriot League honors for her second place finish at the Patriot League Championship.
In 2008, Kavanagh led both the men’s and women’s cross country teams to a sixth place finish at the Patriot League Championship. Seven of Kavanagh’s runners competed at the ECAC Championships and four freshmen competed at the IC4A Championships. The 2008-2009 track and field season was filled with excitement as Kavanagh coached Brad Mish to Holy Cross’ first New England championship in the 5,000 meter indoor run and first championship since 1995. Mish also broke the Holy Cross marathon record that was set by Doug Wood in 1972.
A Rhode Island native, Kavanagh excelled in track and football at La Salle Academy and later at Boston College from 1965-1968. In track he was a three-time New England champion, twice in the discus and once in the shot put. In each of his last three years he journeyed to the NCAAs as a hammer thrower, finishing second in his senior year. He qualified for the 1968 Olympic trials in the 16-pound hammer throw and finished 10th with a career best toss of 199’11”. He was a four time All-American in the hammer and weight throw, an NCAA qualifier in the discus and the third place finisher in the East Coast AAU decathlon championship. In football he enjoyed a fine two-year career which led to his being drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs. A serious ankle injury forced him to leave Kansas City and later Buffalo.
Kavanagh lives in Shrewsbury, Mass., where his wife Elizabeth is the librarian at St. John’s High School. They are the proud parents of three children: Michael, Brian and Jane.