John Kerrigan, left, with Mongolian Skyrunner, Natsagdorj Luvansharav, winner of the Youth World Championship in 2023.

Harwood Union’s longtime cross-country coach John Kerrigan, Duxbury, is leaving after almost five decades of teaching and three-season coaching. Kerrigan submitted his resignation to school district superintendent Mike Leichliter and the Harwood Unified Union School District Board at the board’s January 31 meeting.



Kerrigan will remain involved in coaching, focusing on his role with the U.S. Skyrunning team and as a referee for the International Skyrunning Association referee.

Kerrigan served as a three-season coach (Nordic skiing, cross-country and track and field) and a science teacher at Harwood for 46 years. During his tenure, Harwood athletes won a total of 47 state championships and 32 runners-up titles. His athletes are responsible for 79 banners hanging in the gym.  Kerrigan retired from teaching and as Nordic coach in 2015, from track and field in 2018. Kerrigan coached cross country until 2023.

Kerrigan had great success coaching track and field with 15 state titles, hundreds of individual state champions and dozens of All Americans. His Nordic teams won five state titles. One former HU Nordic skier has credited Kerrigan with inspiring her to become an Olympian (Caitlin Compton Gregg 2010 Vancouver). 

“Cross-country running and coaching have been my greatest passion. As an athlete, the focus on running helped me get through some-life altering events: the death of my father at age 13 and the diagnosis of life-threatening muscle sarcoma at age 15. Running cross country helped me to develop the drive and grit to get over difficult times in my life. As a coach, it gave me great pride to see my athletes develop the same passion and grit that helped shape my character. I have coached many champions, but my greatest joy was in helping those that are less naturally talented develop into competitive cross-country runners and wonderful human beings.”



The cross-country program has been extremely popular at Harwood. At one time, Harwood cross country boasted a roster of over 70 runners. One of every nine students that attended Harwood ran cross country, Kerrigan noted. 

They were labeled “Kerrigan’s Army” by runner and ice hockey player Trey Kiendl. 

In the past 45 years Harwood cross-country teams and individuals have had great success: 

 -27 Vermont Division 2 titles (eight straight girls’ titles and 11 of the last 14).

-16 individual Harwood runners have won the Vermont Division 2 meet.

-Three All-Americans, including Eric Morse, who became a national champion in mountain running and one of only a few Vermonters (including Bruce Hyde) that later broke 4:00 minutes in the mile. Harwood runners Ava Thurston (two-time winner) and Sam Nishi received the Gatorade High School Academic All- American XC runners award.  

-Harwood’s (2000 Bruce Hyde led) boys’ team received a national ranking and was invited to compete in the Great American Race. Only the top 25 teams in the U.S. are invited.

 Coaching Honors 

 Kerrigan was honored by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Association as National Girls XC Coach of the year in 2015 and again in 2021 and was inducted into the Run Vermont Hall of Fame in 2019.     

“The honor that moved me the most was recognition by the Vermont House of Representatives in 2015. I was recognized by the Vermont House of Representatives ‘for placing a strong emphasis on athlete participants’ sportsmanship, execution, the fact that he considered every student on a team he coached to be important’,” he said. 

Kerrigan was two-time runner-up as Vermont Biology Teacher of the Year and a two-time recipient of Harwood’s Teacher of the Year. In 2010, Kerrigan received the Vermont Golden Apple Award for his work with Vermont Special Needs athletes. 



As a science teacher, Kerrigan worked to expand the school nature trail originally created by Duxbury Town Historian, Alice DeLong. Over the years, with the help of parents, families and alumni he was able to design and expand the original ½-mile Harwood nature trail to over 5 miles that included a challenging 5-kilometer cross-country course.

“Harwood has been a huge part of my life. I put my heart and soul and often my back into building the trails, the track and helping to put Harwood on the New England map as a cross-country powerhouse.  My own labor supported by the efforts of many others, the individual competitors, coaches and their parents have become my friends. I have been invited to their birthday celebrations, weddings and sadly attended some of their funerals.”



His involvement with International Skyrunning began in 2017, when he and his son Ryan brought seven runners to Andorra (a small independent country nestled into the Pyrenees mountains). Harwood XC athletes competed in the 2017 World Youth Skyrunning Championships. Erin Magill placed second in the Vertical Kilometer and the team came in fourth overall.  

“I guess one could boast that Harwood XC placed fourth in the world!” Kerrigan joked.

His final words:  Remember that life is a marathon – in which you set goals and follow your heart. Live your ideal life. Learning and hard work never stops.