CHAPIN -- Peers, parents, grandparents, family and friends turned out in big numbers at last weekend's Lake Murray Invitational, not only to cheer on the high school student/athletes who competed there, but to also honor and remember Mike Moore, Irmo High's longtime track and cross country coach who passed away on the eve of an event Moore was very much a part of for many years.
"Mike helped start Lake Murray 20 years ago," Chapin coach Jack LeGrand told scrunners.com earlier this week. "He's one of the godfathers of cross country."
The huge turnout Saturday that LeGrand and others said led to some "parking issues" at Crooked Creek Recreational Park, was a testament to the hold Moore had on the running community in Irmo, and to the love and admiration the towns of Irmo and Chapin share for the man.
People from both towns spoke publicly Saturday about Moore. Chapin High basketball coach John Goodale, who also teaches PE at Irmo Elementary, said his longtime friend influenced young and old.
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"I've known Coach Moore for 30 years," Goodale said. "He taught important lessons not only to us adults, but more importantly to the students."
Moore's cross country team finished strong last Saturday. The boys took fifth in the team standings, while the girls finished 16th. Yellow Jacket seniors Hayes Selbee and Morgan Bridges shared their appreciation for their coach following the competition.
"Coach Moore has been my coach for the past six years," Bridges said. "He's an awesome man and the sport won't be the same without him. I know Coach Moore would want us to carry out this season strong."
Selbee said Moore would always encourage every runner, whether a Yellow Jacket or from another school, to do their best.
"We're going to miss him," Selbee said.
Moore coached cross country and track for 40 years. His Irmo cross country boys and girls teams each won state championships twice during the 1990s, and took home numerous regional championships. Moore was inducted into the state Track and Cross Country Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2002 and the state USATF Hall of Fame in 2008.
In addition to the Mike Moore Lake Murray Invitational, Moore is credited with starting two other huge state cross country events, the Shrine Bowl Run in Spartanburg and what's now the SCTCCCA Bob Jenkins Coaches Classic in Columbia.
Moore joins a growing list of influential cross country coaches in South Carolina who have passed away in recent years. George Johnson, who founded the sport in the state and coached at Brookland-Cayce and Ben Lippen, died in 2012; last year the sport lost Bob Jenkins and earlier this year track and cross country coach Ellerbe Hightower passed away.
"Those are some big names," LeGrand said. "They made tremendous contributions to cross country and track and field, and they set a high bar not just in how they coached, but what they were as human beings, the way they treated others."
Still, LeGrand thinks cross country and track is "alive and well."
"There are a lot of good people coming up throughout the state, people who are coaching now, who 30-35 years ago were running in high school," he said.
James Island High coach David Lee was an all-state runner at Dreher High in Columbia and last year became president of the SCTCCCA, succeeding Riverside coach Eric Cummings. James Island is once again hosting another popular cross country meet this weekend, the Low Country Invitational, at Mullet Hall on neighboring Johns Island.
LeGrand said Lee, Cummings and other current cross country and track coaches, "all interacted well with all those legends as they came along. So, I think the sport is in great shape," he said, in good measure because of the efforts of Johnson, Jenkins, Hightower, Moore and others.
Nevertheless, LeGrand said he and the sport will miss Moore, a man he worked closely with for many years.
"It's unusual to work with one person for 20 years and never have a disagreement," LeGrand said. Moore was always willing to help out, even to the end. LeGrand said he visited Moore in the hospital the Monday before his death.
"I came into the ICU and Mike was totally paralyzed on his left side from the stroke. His whole focus was on making sure I had everything I needed from his program for Lake Murray."
Moore would spend the next half hour from his hospital bed with LeGrand, going over preparations for Lake Murray.
"He wouldn't let me change the subject until he had given me everything I needed to know about the meet," LeGrand said. "That was Mike Moore."