By: Pat Salvas
HANOVER, N.H. – It is with great sadness that Dartmouth announces the passing of longtime Herbert & Marjorie Chase Head Coach of Women’s Track & Field Sandy Ford-Centonze.
Ford-Centonze passed peacefully Saturday morning surrounded by her beloved family after fiercely battling cancer for several months.
One of the most loved and well-respected coaches at Dartmouth, Ford-Centonze was also one of its most loyal as this marked her 28th season at the helm of the program, coming to Hanover in 1992. She served alongside Herbert & Marjorie Chase Director of Dartmouth Track & Field and Cross Country Barry Harwick ’77 the entirety of her time in Hanover as the two started at the same time and formed one of the most recognizable coaching duos and bonds in Ivy League athletics.
“Coaching with Sandy for the last 28 years has been an honor and a privilege. Very few coaches have had such an inspiring impact on the lives of so many students,” Harwick said. “Sandy was able to be tough and demanding, and then warm and caring, all depending on what one of our athletes needed. Her technical skills were outstanding, and it was exciting to watch the kids she worked with get better.
“On a personal note, over the last three decades I have spent more time with Sandy than any other person outside of my family. She was a wonderful friend that cared deeply about the people she was close to. We coached together, traveled together, saw each other through many competitive ups and downs and we watched each other’s sons grow from kids to fine young men. It is a sad, sad day for me and every member of the Dartmouth track & field family.”
Sandy came to Hanover in the early ’90s after spending six seasons as the head coach of women’s track at Vermont. Prior to her time in Burlington, she worked as an assistant at her alma mater of Appalachian State from 1984-86. She was a standout during her time as a student-athlete with the Mountaineers, serving as a two-year captain of the team and being named the Most Valuable Performer as a junior when she went undefeated in the 400 in just her second year of track competition.
Ford-Centonze served on numerous coaching committees, saw her student-athletes be recognized with a wealth of awards for their work in the classroom and win even more individual titles on the track. In her time with the Big Green, her athletes won 87 Ivy League Heptagonal titles between indoor and outdoor seasons, plus numerous All-Ivy performances in addition to several excelling in cross country.
She sent countless athletes to the NCAA East Regional over the years and many to the NCAA Championship Meet in both winter and late spring.
“I am greatly saddened by the passing of Sandy,” Director of Athletics and Recreation Harry Sheehy said. “Sandy was a wonderful colleague but most importantly she was a great mentor and coach to hundreds of Dartmouth track & field student athletes. The department and Dartmouth community will miss her greatly. Our sincere condolences go out to all Sandy’s loved ones.”
She was so much more than a coach, however, to countless Dartmouth student-athletes who came through the program in the last three decades. Sandy was a maternal figure to so many of her runners during their time in Hanover, but her most important job — and one she took the most joy in — was being the mom to her sons Christian and Antonio. Nothing brought her recognizable smile to her face more than talking with her about her new role of grandmother to grandson Riker, a role which she had practiced with several of her co-worker’s children.
Additionally, few people at Dartmouth in the last 30 years have touched the lives of their colleagues like Sandy did. Nearly everyone in the department knew Sandy by her smile, infectious attitude and her devotion to make things better for not only her team, but all Big Green teams.
Calling hours will be on Wednesday, Dec. 18 from 5-7 p.m. at Ricker Funeral Home in Lebanon. A public memorial service will be held at Dartmouth’s Rollins Chapel in Hanover on Jan. 4.