ROCHESTER — Many a sneaker company owes its thanks to Bob Bradley for the business he’s helped generate over the years.
Under Bradley’s tutelage, hundreds upon hundreds of athletes have logged thousands upon thousands of miles. As he begins his 44th season as head cross-country coach at McQuaid Jesuit High School, Bradley still relishes the challenge of getting runners in shape for this grueling sport.
“Some kids are naturals, but the typical cross-country high-school runner just builds up his stamina and can accomplish great things,” Bradley said.
Bradley can certainly speak to great accomplishments. His McQuaid teams had a phenomenal record of 212 consecutive dual-meet wins, a streak lasting more than 30 years, until it was broken in 2003 by Aquinas Institute. His Knights have won 10 Section 5 titles in all, even though Catholic high schools weren’t allowed to take part in Section 5 competitions until the 1970s. McQuaid also captured state championships in 1984 and 1992.
In addition to his cross-country duties, Bradley teaches 11th-grade advanced English at McQuaid, where he has been on the faculty since 1960. He plans to make this his final year for both coaching and teaching.
“I just think this is a good time to bow out, while I’m still feeling good,” explained Bradley, 75.
But first, there is plenty of unfinished business. Bradley is smack in the middle of cross-country season, having just helped coordinate the 41st McQuaid Invitational. The event, held Oct. 1 at Genesee Valley Park, routinely draws a prestigious field of more than 5,000 runners from several states and Canada. Bradley was the invitational’s longtime director before becoming assistant director three years ago.
Bradley’s success doesn’t stop with cross-country. Beginning in the 1960s he also served as McQuaid’s head coach for outdoor and indoor track before ending those tenures in 1999 and 1993, respectively. These teams earned nine additional Section 5 crowns — six outdoor and three indoor.
Bradley is a native of Jersey City, N.J. He served in the Korean War with the United States Marine Corps, rising to the rank of sergeant during his three-year stint. He arrived at McQuaid only a few years after the school opened in 1954.
“I came in as an English teacher, not having any idea of coaching,” he recalled. He was, and still is, attracted to the Jesuit atmosphere based on his own education at Jesuit institutions — he graduated from St. Peter’s High in Jersey City and Fordham University in New York City.
“McQuaid has always been a terrific place to teach. To be honest, I’ve never seriously considered going anywhere else,” he said.
He has taught both English and Latin while making his coaching mark in three different sports. He said he’s especially fond of cross-country due to the camaraderie he has shared with his runners. In fact, up until a few years ago, he enjoyed jogging with the athletes while they were training.
“That was one of the fun parts. I’d jog off, talking with all the kids, then I’d jog back with the slower kids,” he quipped.
The program’s strong tradition is evidenced by its participation level. Bradley said this year’s varsity/junior varsity team has approximately 25 runners — “it’s a little down, but a lot of coaches would give their right arm for that many.” Some 50 to 60 additional runners take part in the grade 7-9 program.
Beyond teaching and coaching, Bradley is a devout family man. He married his wife Ann Marie in 1968; they have three children and three grandchildren.
Unborn children, as well, are a priority of his. Bradley, who said he and his wife were mildly involved in past pro-life activities, stepped up his involvement beginning in 1999. That’s when Dr. Morris Wortman, a gynecologist who performs abortions, opened an office just 400 yards down South Clinton Avenue from McQuaid — and Bradley is certain of the distance because he used a tape measure.
“It became a bit personal — a Jesuit high school was 400 yards from an abortion clinic,” Bradley said.
For the next five years, Bradley and Carmelite Father Jack Healy, a part-time McQuaid instructor, led a gathering of students, faculty, alumni and friends to pray the rosary outside Wortman’s office each school day during free time. The group now meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays only.
Bradley, a parishioner of St. Thomas More in Brighton, admits that this ritual is “a pretty tough sell. Kids don’t think it’s cool to say the rosary.” But he is gratified that McQuaid’s administration has stood behind his initiative: “Fortunately, people here have agreed we should do something.”
Following retirement, Bradley plans to be connected with various projects at McQuaid — and he will surely be welcomed, based on a sterling reputation that has earned him numerous community and school honors over the years. In June 2005 he received McQuaid’s Ignis Award, presented to people who have left a great impact upon the school. His wife was named as a co-recipient, although Bradley said she was a bit puzzled over being included.
“I said ‘Honey, just putting up with what I’ve been doing all these years over here — you’ve been a terrific part of it,'” Bradley said with a laugh.