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Award-winning Diman track and field coach John Homon had a 'special way about him'

Greg Sullivan
Special to The Herald News

John HormanJohn Homon, a highly lauded track and field coach, holds a clipboard during his days coaching at Diman Regional Vocational Technical High School.

At 5-foot-5 and 150 pounds, Amos DaDaLuz didn't look like he could be an elite high school javelin thrower. But his Diman Regional Voc-Tech High School throwing coach, John Homon, was less concerned with stature than with an athlete's heart and willingness to learn.

With Homon's coaching and mentoring and friendship, DaLuz went undefeated in dual meets over his junior and senior years and captured the 1978 New England javelin title.

It was no fluke. The future proved that.

While teaching physical education at Westport Middle School, Homon assisted Diman Regional's veteran track and field coach John Cantwell for four years, 1974 to 1977. His next coaching stop was a long and successful one — 33 years coaching track and field and cross country at NCAA Division III Mount Union College in Alliance, Ohio.

Successful may understate the success of Homon's teams and athletes at Mount Union:

  • 54 out of a possible 93 league Ohio Athletic Conference titles (21 indoor track, 19 outdoor track, 14 cross country).
  • 503 individual athlete OAC titles.
  • 42 individual D3 national champions.
  • 204 All-Americans.
  • Three NCAA D3 coach of the year honors.

In December, the Athol High and UMass Amherst graduate is scheduled to be among the six 2023 inductees into the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association’s 2023 Hall of Fame class. He is already a U.S. Track and Field Div. 3 Coaches Hall of Famer.

Building strength at Diman

This stellar coaching career really started rolling on Stonehaven Road in Fall River.

“That was a long time ago,” Homon said recently from his home in Friendship, Maine, where he retired after finishing at Mount Union in 2011. “I learned a lot from John Cantwell. The three of us [Cantwell and fellow Diman assistant coach Ed Hill] melded together very well.”

DaLuz, 63, a North Kingstown, Rhode Island, resident who last year retired from a career in engineering at Stanley Black & Decker and Raytheon, lists Homon, Cantwell, Hill and former Southeastern Massachusetts University (SMU)/UMass Dartmouth track and field coach Bob Dowd as key figures in his life.

Homon, he said, came to Diman at a time when there was no weightlifting coach, a position that is especially helpful to throwers (javelin, discus, shot put). He remembered the 6-foot-4, 255-pound Homon (discus and shot at UMass; champion arm wrestler; Army discus champion) as a strong technical coach, and an even better motivator and friend.

“He had a kind of special way about him,” DaLuz said. “The kids took to him. He knew how to relate to high school guys. He was a large guy. He came across as being a friend of us. He treated us with respect. He talked the teenagers' talk. We'd think, 'This guy is awesome.'”

Homon's positive approach and record results

DaLuz said Homon would attend seminars, some taught by Olympian athletes, and bring that knowledge to Diman. Homon, DaLuz said, didn't just get the athletes into the weight room, he created an atmosphere of camaraderie. He had his Bengal athletes not only focused on getting better but motivating their teammates to get bigger, stronger, faster. They pushed each other, and had a blast doing it.

On bus rides home from meets, Homon, clipboard in hand, would loudly read out which athletes had won, who had broken records, posted personal bests, all the positives.

DaLuz's 202-foot javelin throw is still the Diman record, and it came on his final throw at the New England Championships where, Hill recalled, DaLuz shocked a field full of much larger “football type” athletes.

Though Homon had left Diman after after the 1977 school year, his teaching still impacted DaLuz. Hill said that DaLuz, senior year of track and field, continued to follow Homon's training while he and Cantwell basically stayed out of the way.

DaLuz's all-time best javelin throw is 224 feet, set while he was an SMU senior at the NCAA D3 nationals. At that meet, his second straight trip to the nationals, DaLuz took third place and earned All-American honors. Fittingly, at that meet he reunited with Homon, there coaching Mount Union.

Homon said DaLuz was one of many fine athletes he had the pleasure of coaching at Diman, where he also was a football assistant.

“John was always a pleasure to work with,” Cantwell said. “He completely understood the athletes and what they needed to succeed.”

Homon said it was a two-way street.

“I learned a lot from the Diman boys,” he said.