The Beatles had the right idea.
Although the meaning of the song was different, London has found that for several decades if they hold their famed cross country meet, people with come and run together for a common goal.
Saturday was no exception as teams came from across the state to participate in the Annual Erin L. Nance Distance Classic, held at the London Country Club. Since 1998 the event has been held in memory of a London High School (LHS) cross country runner who died in a car accident her senior year. Her father Terry — and a number of dedicated volunteers — work hard to make it the marquee event of its kind in Ohio. Prior to 1998, it was known as the London Invitational.
To make the day that much more special, London’s Jordan Marco placed first in Division II for varsity girls, and the London boys varsity team stood atop Division II as well.
Marty Komives was employed in the London City Schools district during the 1971-1972 academic year. He was approached by the then principal/athletic director/football coach to get a new sport going.
“Jim Bowlus asked if I wanted to start a cross country team,” said Komives, who was on hand Saturday. “It was a strong suggestion from Mr. Bowlus.”
After Komives assured Bowlus that he could work it out, LHS’ cross country program began down its long and winding road that season, with the London Invitational beginning in 1974. Komives said it started with just six teams.
Soon after, Terry Nance was handed the mantle of leadership from Komives. The event has continued to grow ever since.
“Terry Nance is the reason this keeps going through his passion and love of the sport,” Komives said. “When I handed it over to him, I knew it would keep going.”
The event’s magical mystery tour has spanned several decades, taking on participants as it has taken on a new meaning these past 19 years.
“This is an amazing meet honoring a very special person,” said LHS Athletic Director Jim Wolverton, of Erin Nance. “Along with the prestige this event has, the location keeps teams coming back.”
The picturesque London Country Club provides a fine backdrop for the race. The changing-terrain course does provide some challenges. But on Saturday, the drop in temperature from previous weeks was a bonus.
“It’s been horrible (with the heat), but with today’s temperature you can breathe so much better,” said Madison-Plains coach Bridget Shoemaker. “This is one of the toughest courses we do.”
As well as topping Division II, Marco also placed 14th place overall. Also running for London girls were Kaylynn Martinez and Ellie Shoemaker. Gracie Farmer ran for Madison-Plains.
The running Red Raiders boys were the victors in DII, which placed them ninth among all divisions. They were led by Nicky Alexander and Lance Cahill. Other London runners were Lucas Brenstuhl, Dominic Davis, Dalton Johnson, Kyle Ferguson and Andrew Jordan. Paul Huff participated in the junior varsity race.
Madison-Plains was represented by Ben Fisher, Joey Grigsby, Gage Farmer, Kenny Shafer, and Evan Fisher.
London’s James Marco placed first overall in the newly-reinstated middle school race, while teammate Jimmy Cleaver finished fifth. Other London Middle School boys’ runners included Jimmy Brayshaw, Zack Joliffe, and Zack Shoaf.
Participants in the middle school girls’ race included London’s Natalie Boyd, Haley Redding, Emily Leach, and Julia Harpold.
Each year, Terry Nance marvels at the support for this traditional event. But then he realizes; all you need is love.
“Sometimes it’s hard to believe that it’s grown as it has over the years, but, then, at times, it isn’t hard to believe because of the care and effort that has been put into it annually,” Terry said. “Schools looking for a quality meet recognize that care and effort.”
As is true each year, Terry and his wife Connie make a special effort to thank all of the volunteers (many of whom are either friends, classmates or teammates of Erin and/or former athletes for Terry), as well as the venue that has been the host for decades.
“Please understand that without all of our gracious and generous volunteers and the cooperation and support of the London Country Club membership, none of this would even be remotely possible,” Terry said. “We want each runner, at the conclusion of his or her career, to list us as one of the highlights of that career.”
Jeff Gates is a contributing writer for The Madison Press.