Gideon Erwin, left, poses with “Papaw” Lynn Erwin and his younger brother, Aldon.
By ALLEN RAU
Finishing in second place in the State Cross Country race would make most young runners ecstatic.
But Lamar School runner Gideon Erwin had a spectator in the crowd that meant more to him than the race.
Erwin’s grandfather, Lynn Erwin, was able to make the trip to the race after missing out on the previous years due to an ongoing battle with cancer.
“Last year (Gideon) went to state and his papaw, Lynn, couldn’t make the trip because he has cancer. So this year we did a lot of praying and (Gideon) really worked hard to come in first or second place this year to go to state again,” Gideon’s grandmother, Shirley Erwin, said. “So we went down last Saturday, and Lynn made the trip down to watch Gideon. He came in fourth place in all the state. (Gideon) has really worked hard and they’re really close. He is a really good young man, and he has worked very hard this year. Every day he would run five or six miles and his papaw would drive (behind) and make sure he was okay. But that was a very special time that our family spent together and (was able to) watch Gideon come in fourth at state.”
The presence of Gideon’s grandfather encouraged him, as the two are extremely close. “It’s always great when I see him at a race. When he wasn’t there last year, all I could think about was him while I was running,” Gideon said. “And this year, knowing that he was there to support me really helped to give me a boost to finish the race, and to finish strong and give it everything I had.”
Gideon’s grandfather was also able to attend the qualifying race at Greeneville the week prior to the state meet, where he qualified in second place to secure his state spot.
“(Gideon) has been in several races just around the community. I know he went to Bristol, he went to Fenders Farm. He would always come in first or second place,” according to Shirley Erwin. “He had to win so many races just to get to the state meet. I think there were around 109 runners he had to compete against. We’re very proud grandparents.”
While Lynn Erwin’s presence helped spur the young runner to a top position at the race, the hard work Gideon put in also helped his grandfather.
“I had a little trouble with this illness. But my health was fine down there. It gives me a lot of encouragement to keep on fighting,” Lynn Erwin said. “Track and cross country are a race, it’s kind of like life and I said, ‘You know, when you start at the pole (position) you want to finish even if you might have a bad day’. And he’s done very well and I am so proud of him.”
Gideon had a large group of supporters there to cheer him on who were also thrilled that Lynn was able to attend. His other grandmother Linda Lacey said, “It was such a blessing, because we didn’t know that his papaw was going to get to go down because of the illness, and when he was able to go, it was just one great blessing because all of us were there under one big tent. We were all there. I guess if I had my druthers, I’d have rather had Lynn there over any of us because Gideon’s papaw is so important to him. The Good Lord made it to where Lynn was able and felt up to going.”
During the previous year when his papaw was unable to see Gideon race, his grandmother Shirley said that Gideon’s thoughts were always about his grandfather.
“(Gideon) always asks his papaw to pray for him, to pray with him. He would say ‘Papaw, this is for you’. (Lynn) wanted to come a little more “up” but Gideon said ‘Papaw, you did all you could do’.”
She added, with a laugh, that even when the whole family was able to attend, Gideon’s grandfather Lynn was always a priority.
“We’ve always tried to go to his games and he always looks for his papaw there. He doesn’t care if I’m there or anything, but he wants his papaw right there. He’s his number one fan.”
The second place finish that wrapped up his Lamar Middle School cross-country career will certainly remain a highlight for Gideon. But the presence of his entire family, including his biggest fan, certainly added luster to that last race.
As Gideon himself put it, “It meant the world to me.”