It’s safe to say he laid the foundation of what has developed into a highly successful track and field program.
Now, after 40 years and seven combined district championships, former St. Pius X High School and Pope John Paul II head coach Ed Dobry has decided it’s time to call it a career.
“I’m just taking a step back for right now,” said Dobry, who graduated from St. Pius X in 1965. “To be honest, I wish I had a specific reason as to why, but I just feel like it’s time.
“I was thinking about it for some time. I talked with (longtime former football coach) Jim Mich and he told me ‘You’ll know when it’s time.’ It made a lot of sense to me — I knew it was just time for me to step down.”
In 1976, Dobry took over for John Sengia as head coach of the boys track and field team. Four years later, he started up the school’s inaugural girls program, and coached both teams all the way up until the school closed its doors in 2010.
Through the years, Pius’ athletic setup provided the Winged Lions with a little extra challenge. Oftentimes, runners were forced to dodge line drives from the baseball field that cut into the entire first turn on the gravel track. Throwers were forced to find what available space there was to practice, and jumpers often found little, if any, sand to land in.
“That was part of the practice,” said Dobry with a laugh, “run your best and always be on the lookout. Those are the things you don’t forget.”
Year after year, Pius was often outnumbered during meets both in the Ches-Mont League and once the Winged Lions joined the PAC-10 in 1986 Pius rarely matched an opponent in numbers, but almost always matched them in intensity and talent.
During Dobry’s tenure, the boys captured four District 1 titles (1985, 1997, 2000 and 2003). The girls won three District 1 titles (1984, 2001 and 2004).
“He had that innate ability to get the best out of those he coached,” said Mich of Dobry. “His ability to last so long in the coaching field was due directly to his love of being around young people. Those who played for him were fortunate to have him as a mentor.”
After St. Pius X shut its doors for good and merged with Kennedy-Kenrick in 2010, Dobry made the move to Pope John Paul II, a huge step up from St. Pius’ facilities. Pope John Paul II consists of an 8-lane track, plenty of space for throwers to operate and all of the equipment needed for competitors to strive. Most importantly, the baseball field is on the other side of the athletic facility.
“It’s kind of ironic,” said Dobry. “All those years at Pius, that was all we wanted — a great facility. We finally got it, and it’s been great. We finally had an opportunity to compete and practice on what felt like a college facility. It’s been an incredible experience to be able to coach at both schools.”
During his tenure both at Pius and PJP, in addition to six district titles, Dobry coached 11 gold medalists at the PIAA Championships.
“The medals were great, the championships were great,” he said, “but there is nothing like watching the kids develop over four years. That was always my joy — watching an athlete go from a kid to an adult right in front of our eyes.”
In addition to coaching track and field, Dobry served as an assistant football coach and head coached the freshman team for several years even after Mich retired in 1985.
He also spent time as the English Department chair and ran SAT prep classes as well for juniors. He now teaches at Berks Catholic Intermediate School, and recently earned his principal certificate.
Though he is stepping away from his position as head coach of the track and field program, Dobry admits it will be hard for him to completely stay away.
“I’ll still be checking in with the kids from time to time,” he admitted. “I know they’ll put in a lot of hard work and keep working to get better. I’m excited to see what they can do this season.”
Most importantly, he says the dedication of the athletes and his coaching staff are what has made coaching the past 40 years possible.
“The kids and the coaches always kept me going,” he said. “The success we had was always because we had some great individuals and some really great coaches with me. One person couldn’t do all of this alone. None of this would have ever happened without all of them.”