(Posted Sept. 21, 2018)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
When Erin Nance was 4 years old, her father, Terry, saw her running around the perimeter of their yard and asked his wife, Connie, what was going on. Connie responded that Erin was training so that she could one day run on her daddy’s cross country team.
Erin did go on to run cross country at London High School, where Terry served as the cross country coach for many years.
“She loved everything about cross country. She liked the hills, the holes, the tree roots–that it was going to be different each time she went out on a course,” Terry said.
Each September, Erin’s love of the sport is celebrated and remembered with the running of the Erin L. Nance Fall Distance Classic, once known as the London Invitational and renamed in 1998 after Erin passed away as a result of a car accident the spring of her senior year.
Throughout his coaching career at London, which ran from 1978-1986 and again from 1989-1998, Terry said his approach to the invitational was a professional one.
“Starting with 1998, then it became personal. It became a way to help Erin’s memory and spirit live on. Knowing how much she loved cross country, it was the perfect outlet,” he said.
Each year, Terry, his family, the school district and a host of volunteers strive to create an atmosphere that both honors Erin and makes the meet memorable for the runners and their coaches.
“We set up a display that explains who the meet is named for,” Terry said. “And we make the meet as runner-friendly as possible so that it’s one kids highlight on their schedule and think of as being special.”
Facets of the meet also serve as a fundraiser. Volunteers collect $2 donations for parking and sell t-shirts to benefit the Erin L. Nance Memorial Scholarship Fund, which awards scholarships to graduating seniors at London High School. The shirts are $15 for short-sleeved and $20 for long-sleeved. To date, approximately $50,000 in scholarships has been awarded to approximately 70 students.
This year marks Terry’s 41st year as the meet manager and the meet’s 45th year overall. On Sept. 29, runners from 26 high schools and nine middle schools will compete on London’s home course at the London Country Club. The first race starts at 9 a.m. The last race starts at 11:40. The high schoolers run 3 miles; the middle schoolers run 2 miles.
Admission is free. The London Country Club is located at 1199 Spring Valley Road. In case of inclement weather, the meet will take place Oct. 1, with races starting at 5:15 p.m.