Gravel began the men’s track and field program upon his arrival to Westfield State in 1969, and developed the sport into a state and regional power before announcing his retirement in June of 1997 after 28 stellar seasons.
His teams were particularly strong in the 1980s. Westfield State won the New England Division 3 outdoor championships in 1980 and 1985; placed second in 1981 and 1988 and third in 1982 and 1989; and finished fourth in 1986.
The Owls were even more dominating on the conference level. After track and field became a Mass. State Conference sport in 1972, Gravel’s teams won or shared 20 of 26 championships, including 13 consecutive titles from 1983 to 1995.
Westfield’s track and field teams also achieved many individual successes. Gravel guided 32 All Americans and 139 national qualifiers in NCAA Division 3 championship meets.
He also began the Westfield State men’s cross country program in 1969 and built it into a conference perennial power, serving as the head coach for a total of 15 years.
Always showing concern for his students both on and off the playing field, Gravel constantly stressed the importance of individual accomplishments.
“Once you’ve maximized individual potential you have a winning team,” Gravel said. “Individual potential counts, along with having fun.
“This simple philosophy has gained him a large and loyal alumni following, many of whom still keep in close contact with their college coach.
“I had a lot of good experiences at Westfield State,” said Gravel. “I’ve had a lot of good kids who were successful students and who are now successful in their professions.”
Gravel, a native of Attleboro, Mass., graduated from UMass-Amherst in 1960 and was a member of the track team. He spent two years in Ohio, graduating with a master’s degree from Kent State and coaching high school basketball in Massillon for a year.
After serving in the Army, Gravel was the cross country and assistant track and field coach at East Islip High School on Long Island until 1966. Before coming to Westfield State in 1969, he was the field events coach at Boston State, now UMass Boston, for three years.
Gravel also was a highly respected faculty member in the movement science department during his long tenure at Westfield State. Upon his retirement, he was honored with faculty emeritus status as an associate professor of movement science.
Gravel now resides in Oceanside, Calif., near San Diego, with his wife Joan. He teaches part-time at a local community college and enjoys the outdoors. He and his wife also enjoy spending time with their two children and four grandchildren.