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SPARTANBURG - Getting the game ball from Greenville to Spartanburg for Saturday's Shrine Bowl football game holds more meaning this year than in years past for the high school runners who will be carrying the pigskin, and for their coaches.
The annual event, known in prior years as the Shrine Bowl Game Ball Run, is now the Mike Moore Shrine Bowl Game Ball Run. The change was made earlier this year in honor of the longtime Irmo High cross country and track coach who passed away last fall.
Moore is credited with starting the first game ball run for the Shrine Bowl 30 years ago. High school cross country runners are selected by their coaches to participate in the relay based on their performance each year in state meets. The 42 runners who make the team each year pair off to complete the 21 legs from Greenville to Spartanburg.
On Saturday at 8 a.m., two Irmo cross country seniors, Sam Padula and Morgan Bridges, will start the 33.5-mile relay run from in front of the Shriners Hospital on W. Paris Road in Greenville. Five hours later, the pair will deliver the two footballs to Shrine Bowl game officials inside Gibbs Stadium prior to the start of the game between the top high school football seniors from North Carolina and South Carolina.
Riverside High's Eric Cummings, who has overseen the run for the SCTCCCA for the past seven years, said the association was in the process of changing the event's name to honor Moore prior to its meetings this past summer.
"This is the 30th running of the event and we wanted to honor coach Mike Moore," Cummings said. "We were planning on announcing it at the Coaches Classic, but felt it was inappropriate with what Coach Moore was going through that weekend."
St. Joseph's High coach Marie Kernell was assistant coach at last year's ball run, and moved up to head coach this year.
She said she looks forward to celebrating a big anniversary for the run, while at the same time remembering a coaching "icon."
"It's an honor to be involved in a worthy cause named after someone who gave 40 years to this sport," Kernell said. "Coach Moore was a role model for all coaches."
An hour before the start of the run, the athletes and coaches will tour the Shriners Hospital for Children, an event held each year.
"The motto 'We Run So Others Can Walk' hits each (runner) when they tour the hospital," Cummings said.
He said the athletes see first-hand that "they are helping to make a difference," for the children at the hospital, an outcome he shares, as well.
"I have gotten to work with a great organization, the Shriners," he said. "This being the 30th anniversary run and honoring Mike Moore makes this a very special event."
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