NORTON — Speaking under a bright sky with a touch of a warm breeze, Norton High track captain Jake Antosca fought back tears when he spoke of his former coach at the dedication of the Lancers’ track as the Kent A. Taylor Track Monday evening.
Taylor, a legend in the Massachusetts high school cross country and track community, coaching teams to several Tri-Valley League and state titles, had a life-changing event in May 2020. One of the most well-liked and popular track coaches in the state, Taylor was diagnosed with a Grade 4 Gliobastoma cancer with an IDH Mutation that resulted in doctors performing emergency surgery, removing 90% of the tumor on his frontal lobe and a secondary lesion behind it. There were setbacks along the way as well. Taylor endured blood clots in his lungs and a deep bone thrombosis.
Antosca spoke of Taylor’s courage and unwavering optimism in his battle against the disease.
“Many of us will never have to hear the words; ‘You have cancer.’ Thus, many of us will not experience cancer,” Antosca told the crowd from the podium at the edge of the 50-yard-line. “But unfortunately, many of us will have to witness cancer. In this instance, we saw Coach Taylor’s life start to slip through the hands of time and all we could do was watch. In a period of chaos, never once did we see Coach Taylor hesitate or surrender to the challenge at hand, rather we saw him valiantly win his battle with cancer; spoiling the plans of any odds against him. Only one word can describe him: Hero.”
Taylor, who received a standing ovation when he went to the podium, thanked everyone in attendance and said each one of them has made an impact in his life.
“It significantly changed the trajectory of my life and my family’s lives,” said Taylor of his more than three-year odyssey. “All things considered, my life mantra has become carpe diem (seize the day). I live by this every day and I would encourage all of you to try and do the same.”
Taylor said he was “in shock” when he heard there was a student-athlete movement to have the track named for him. “I have never been more humbled in my life,” he said. “Rest assured, this is a memory I will take with me for the rest of my life.”
Taylor especially thanked school superintendent Dr. Joseph F. Baeta. “This facility will be part of your legacy too sir. Thank you for the support you’ve given to the schools for over 30 years,” Taylor said.
Baeta asked all the student athletes in attendance, who had Taylor as a teacher or coach, to stand. “Folks this is what it is all about,” he said. “Coming back as a community in a great town.”
Baetra said the process of a dedication for Taylor was a “unique” one. A facility is not just named after anyone and there is a process that includes a nomination, and a “unanimous endorsement” by the school committee and then to him. “All of it, from Day 1 was unanimous,” Baetra said. “It was the right thing we wanted to do as a school community. I’ve never seen a student movement to name a facility after one of their coaches,” he said. “Typically, this happens after retirement and all that. But in this particular case, to have the civic pride of students wanting to do this is so meaningful and original for the community of Norton.”
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