Parents crowded into Wednesday's School Committee meeting to rally behind the high school's cross-country program in the wake of coach Domenic Finelli's resignation.
Finelli coached the team for nine years before recently handing in his resignation.
Resident Nathan King said during the meeting's public comment period that Finelli received only 55 percent of what other coaches at the school receive for compensation, yet he coached both the boys and the girls cross country teams.
Parent Paul Gorman, a longtime program supporter, said Swampscott has one of the largest cross country programs in the state if not the largest with 130 athletes, boys and girls.
Finelli gave team jerseys to all who wanted to be part of the team, an estimated 17 percent of the school's enrollment, he said.
Teammates included state champs and those whose goal it was to just finish the race, he and other speakers said.
"This is a program of excellence and inclusion," Gorman said.
A former runner and parents of runners attested to the program's positive influence on young people.
Running encourages health, team work, perseverance, goal setting, confidence and mental toughness, speakers said.
Plus, running is a lifelong activity.
School officials did not respond to the comments from the public.
Gorman said after the meeting that Finelli supporters want to sit down with the officials to convince them to bring coach Finelli back in the fold.
He said their goal on Wednesday was to express to school officials the high esteem with which parents regard the program and coach.
About 65 people, including School Committee members, were in Room B208 at the high school when the meeting started.
After the public comment session ended more than half the audience left the room.