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By Rich Johnson ‘74
While contemplating making my annual appeal for funds in conjunction with the 8th annual Tom Warner 5K Run/Walk at Lawrence Academy (9:00 AM on June 10th at Lawrence's cross-country course), I've mused on what made him such a great teammate, friend, and competitor.
I've also recalled what first drew me to running...
Our team -- known to some as the "Goon Squad" -- shared a fair measure of outsider cred. We were united in our suffering and rewarded with a degree of success that remains gratifying some 40+ years later. But there's no doubt these same undeniable bonds unite nearly all cross-country runners.
To the right is a photo I purchased a few years back that captures the moment we surely all experienced as children; the moment where we finally broke free from our parents and shared the joy of movement and sensation that comes with really filling your lungs for the first time.
We all ran like this as kids, didn't we?
Life is sort of a like a cross country run...rough in patches, impossibly hilly, comfortingly flat, eternally rewarding in ways that not only connect us to the planet but also afford us an athletic challenge in which each and every participant experiences approximately the same degree of pain and shares the common commitment of conquering an identical measure of rugged terrain as fast as possible. Like football, no cancellations due to rain or snow.
Of course, we're convinced -- as we age -- that we all ran a bit faster and hurt a little more than perhaps we did.
However, Tom, a member of the Class of 1975, was a runner who once drew comparisons to the great Alberto Salazar and ran as a way to get in shape for his first sporting love of hockey. And though a knee injury suffered in his junior year slowed him a tad he remained an All-New England competitor and inspiration to one and all. As a freshman at Amherst Tom was a key member of the 1976 ECAC College Division Hockey Champions only months before being diagnosed with the brain stem tumor that would claim his life at age 22.
Nobody fought harder to live than our beloved friend, and nobody displayed more grace and courage under the worst of circumstances. Not a day passes where I don't think of him.
In 1979 his family and friends started a memorial fund in his name at Lawrence Academy. We also started a 5K run/walk that takes place on the cross-country course he once owned as a runner and upon which his friends spread his ashes on an autumn afternoon 38 years ago.
To date, we've raised over $100K for Lawrence in Tom's name. Help us raise that ante.
I hope to see everyone on June 10th at Lawrence Academy and also hope you'll dig down once more for Tom's Fund. YOu may register for the run or make a donation online. Perfer to send a donation? Make your checks out to LAWRENCE ACADEMY and write Tom Warner Fund in the notes section on the lower left and mail to:
26 Powderhouse Road
Groton, MA 01450
All donations support Tom's Memorial Fund at Lawrence. Thank you. RJ