On Saturday, March 18, the Camel Athletic program celebrated the retirement of Head Men's Cross Country Coach/Associate Head Track & Field Coach Jim Butler. View a gallery of Coach Butler's special day here.
Head Women's Cross Country/Track & Field Coach Ned Bishop '84 coordinated the event that included a meet at the iconic tree, where Butler's teams congregate across from Harkness Chapel at the start of practice.
Men's and women's student athletes spanning the past three decades packed the Ernst Common Room in Blaustein.
"Jim Butler's decision to retire from his position will leave a huge void," said Fran Shields, the Katherine Wenc Christoffers '45 Director of Athletics and Physical Education. "He has approached his coaching with the dedication, passion, professionalism of a full-time coach and beyond. Our cross country and track student-athletes have benefited greatly from his knowledge, leadership, and mentorship. There have been countless times over his 30-year career where someone would see I worked at Connecticut College and ask me if I knew Jim Butler. I have always been proud to say, yes I know him: Class act, consummate professional, wonderful family, amazing work ethic, voracious competitor. All of us are better because we know Jim Butler."
Over the past three decades, Butler has built the Camels into one of the top Division III programs in New England, while overseeing the development of National Champions, All-Americans, and New England Champions. Butler recruited Michael LeDuc '14, who went into the Connecticut College annals as the College's most accomplished athlete in program history. LeDuc won three of the College's six NCAA Championships and was a nine-time All-American in cross country and track & field.
LeDuc posted back-to-back victories in the 3000 meter steeplechase at nationals in his junior and senior year. He also captured the 2013 NCAA Cross Country Individual crown that capped off an undefeated fall season that saw him and Butler celebrate victories at the New England Division III Championship, the NESCAC Championship and at the Connecticut College Cross Country home invitational at Harkness Memorial State Park in Waterford.
In 2002, Butler directed the Camels to an appearance in the NCAA Championship. Connecticut College finished fourth at the New England Division III Championships to earn an invitation to nationals. The Camels placed 20th at the National Championships held in Northfield, Minnesota, where Butler was named the USTFCCCA Division III New England Region Coach of the Year.
Butler also serves as the Associate Head Coach for the men's and women's Track & Field team at the College, coaching the men's distance and mid-distance runners in the winter and spring seasons. In 2014, he was honored as the USTFCCCA Division III New England Region Assistant Outdoor Track & Field Coach of the Year.
Under Butler's tutelage 2014 Camel Athletic Hall of Fame Inductee Adam Fitzgerald '03 (10,000), Keith Drake '08 (mile), Brian Murtagh '09 (steeplechase and 3,000), Shawn Mulcahy (10,000) '11, and Mike LeDuc (3,000 in 2011 and 2012, 5,000 in 2012 and 2013, and 1500 in 2014), have all won recent New England Division III track titles.
"This was not an easy decision to make because of how much I enjoy the teams that I have coached and the people I have met as a coach at Connecticut College," Coach Butler said. "I have been privileged to be associated with so many wonderful student-athletes, who along with their families, have remained such good friends over the years to me and Debbie. I count coaches I have worked with at the College and those I have coached against as some of my dearest friends. To be honest, these past 30 years as coach at CONN have flown by, but have provided me memories and friends that I will cherish the rest of my life."