Dozens of former Staples High School runners — along with friends and fans from the Westport road race series and Pequot Runners — came from as far as California today to honor Laddie Lawrence, and his 50 years of coaching.
It was supposed to be a surprise. But when you’ve touched as many lives as Laddie, the secret was bound to get out.
Still, it was a wonderful and emotional afternoon. In half a century as the town’s running guru — including not only Staples cross country, indoor and outdoor track, and the summer and fall races, but also Thursday evening age group meets — Laddie has created a community of runners of all ages and abilities.
Former Staples teammates from his Class of 1964 were there. So were rival coaches — and Paul Lane, the former Staples coach who first introduced him to track. Parents came too. But most of all, there were runners, present and (recent and distant) past.
He’s won an insane number of championships. His athletes have become All-Americans, and earned college scholarships. But today was a time for everyone, of every speed, to gather together and say “thanks” to a mentor and friend.
Best of all: This was not goodbye. Laddie is not retiring.
Actually, knowing him, he’ll coach another 50 years.