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Coaching in the Classroom and On the Course - ADL’s Peter Gustafson

November 27, 2018
Peter Gustafson was fresh out of college and just starting his first job as a teacher at Albert D. Lawton when then-Principal Stanley Knapp called him into his office. There was interest in starting a cross country program at the school. Knapp had heard that Gustafson had some experience coaching at the University of Vermont as a student, and wondered if he would he be interested in getting the program running from the ground up?


Gustafson agreed to coach, but with one stipulation: he refused to cut anyone from the team. So in the fall of 1980, the first ADL cross country team featured 89 athletes, a group so large that they had to take two buses when traveling for away meets.


Soon thereafter, Gustafson took over the coaching reins of the spring track and field program at the school as well. While he would stay on to coach in the spring, he stepped away from the cross country team in 1984 when his first son was born.

Essex Reporter article from 1998 highlighting the 142 members of the ADL Track and Field team. 1998 Essex Reporter article


Fast-forward to this August when current ADL Cross Country Coach, and school guidance counselor, Jess Librizzi asked Gustafson to rejoin the ranks and be part of the team’s coaching staff. Even after being away from the sport for 34 years, he said yes.


“What drew me back to coaching cross country since I left in 1984? I wanted to finish my years at ADL with what I started,” said Gustafson.  


“Peter’s enthusiasm about being part of the program is visible to the kids and that enthusiasm is mirrored back from them,” said Librizzi, now in her fifth year coaching cross country. “He is excited every day about being at practice and cares about how each student is doing, no matter if they are the fastest or slowest on the team.”

Peter Gustafson looking on at an ADL Cross Country practice.


When asked about his fondest coaching memories, which include having worked with over 3,000 athletes at ADL, his responses encapsulate the full spectrum of his career.


“Our first-ever cross country meet took place in September of 1980 at U-32 Middle School. ADL won both the boys and girls invitational events there. I had no idea how talented they were! But my fondest track moment came just this past spring by having our boys and girls track teams collectively win the state middle school championship held at UVM. ”


When he is not coaching, Gustafson teaches Humanities at ADL while also running the weekly chess and cribbage clubs at the school. ‘Mr. G,’ as he is affectionately called by his students, has also helped lead the Chargers to back-to-back Vermont Principal’s Association State Championships in the Geography Bee.


Gustafson’s longevity is bearing witness to him now seeing children of former athletes he coached, or students he taught, walking down the halls at ADL.


Henry Farrington (who recently led the Essex High School Boys Cross Country team to the state title for Division I), and his sister Emma, who is now in college, both ran for Gustafson while attending ADL, just like their father Jim, who was a member of the ADL track and field, and cross country teams in the early 1980s.


The 1982 ADL Cross Country team. 1982 ADL Cross Country team


Many former ADL alumni are also still supportive of the school’s present-day athletic programs. Twins James and Jeff Harton both were great ADL athletes in the early 1980s and are now coaching colleagues with Gustafson, as they returned to their middle school roots to coach the ADL Girls B Soccer team this past fall.


It’s safe to say that Gustafson’s footprint, or those of all whom he has coached, has been left on the school that he has been part of for nearly the last 40 years.