Column by BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Randy Peek figures Sam White is having a good laugh.
“That is what we were saying,” said Peek, the football coach at Princeton Senior High School. “Sam is probably laughing his butt off at us. He sees us running around like crazy trying to get all this done.
“We thought it was going to be small, but it has grown to what it has.”
How big has Saturday’s Sam White 5K Run/Walk in Princeton become?
The Varmint Run is probably the region’s largest such event, drawing hundreds of runners to picturesque Burkes Garden every June.
Would you believe that the inaugural Sam White 5K Run/Walk might already be second on that list?
“That is what some of the people were telling us,” Peek said. “Randy Wilson was hoping to get 100 runners. The turnout is more than we ever expected. People have donated money and their time and there has been a lot of community support.”
Peek and Wilson, who is an assistant football basketball coach at Princeton, and was one of White’s best friends, organized the event to honor the former coach at Princeton and PikeView, who died unexpectedly last November.
They’re not alone. Peek has seen even after White’s death the impact he had on so many lives.
“If you went to his funeral, you could see so many people whose lives he touched, and his impact has kept growing,” Peek said. “I have been amazed after everything Sam White has brought here.”
That outpouring of support includes an amazing 305 runners and walkers who have already registered for Saturday’s event.
There are so many involved that Peek encourages all participants to pick up their race packets — which includes a bib and T-shirt — on Friday night at Hunnicutt Stadium from 6-8 p.m.
“We are trying to get a lot of that out of the way,” Peek said.
Peek said a shuttle will also run from the large parking lot at the Princeton Church of God on Saturday morning beginning at 7 p.m. The race is slated to start at 8 from Burkes Memorial Baptist Church on Thorn Street.
“We are going to park them at the Princeton Church of God, shuttle them to the start/finish line and then shuttle them back,” Peek said. “The buses will start running at 7 a.m.”
All proceeds from the event will go to create an annuity for White’s family to help with expenses, including a college fund for his young children. A scholarship will also be funded by the Princeton Tigers Athletic Foundation to be presented to a Princeton Senior High School student on an annual basis.
Peek has been overwhelmed at the support the event has received.
“I have seen some other races and been involved in some where you were lucky to get 50 to 100 (people),” Peek said. “That is what we were thinking, but the people have come out.
“I have gotten calls from Morgantown and North Carolina, and Randy has gotten several calls also.”
The Sam White 5K Run/Walk was created after White died unexpectedly last November. He left behind a wife, Kelli, and two children, 3-year-old Whitney and Easton, who still isn’t a year old.
Peek remembers much about White, but his sense of humor and love for others stands out in his thoughts.
“We were talking about that today during weightlifting,” said Peek, earlier this week. “He could imitate just about anybody. The coaches and players were making fun of each other and we were talking about how Sammy White did it best. He could imitate all of us.
“He was always carrying on and always having a good time and he loved the kids.”
Saturday’s race, which will measure 3.1 miles, will begin at Burkes Memorial Baptist Church, extend to Mercer School, circle near Mark Wood (State Farm) Insurance and head back to the church.
The route is close to what Wilson and White used to run often in Princeton.
“This is pretty much their route they ran a lot of times,” Peek said. “We wanted to secure that area, and the Princeton Police Department and the City of Princeton have been great helping us out.”
Others organizations offering services is the Princeton Rescue Squad, the Mercer County Sheriff’s Department and the West Virginia State Police, along with several churches that have provided shuttle buses, including Silver Springs Baptist Church, where White was active as a member.
Chief among the entrants for the event are a pair of running clubs, Runners for God and the Southwest Virginia Roadrunners.
Precision Timing Systems in Greensboro, N.C. will time the race. Prizes will be awarded to the top overall male and female winners, the fastest walker, and the top three finishers in five age groups (19-under, 20-29, 30-39, 40-46, 50-over).
Peek said additional entries will still be accepted up to the time of the race, although they can’t be guaranteed T-shirts. The cost is $20, and registration can be completed at www.samwhite5k.com., or by calling Peek at (304) 920-7335 or Wilson at (304) 922-2149.
A large task is about to culminate in the event that has been in the works since the passing of White. Mark it down, it will become an annual event, no matter how much work it might be.
“We want to put this on every year,” Peek said. “We hope it even grows from 300. We hope everyone has a good time...”
•White’s memory will also be honored tonight at PikeView High School prior to PikeView’s home baseball with Princeton at 5:30 p.m.
PikeView head coach Josh Wyatt is calling the event “PikeView and Princeton Unite for Sam White.” All proceeds from the game will benefit White’s family and the scholarship fund.
Wyatt said White’s daughter, Whitney, will throw out the first pitch.
—Brian Woodson is the sports editor at the Daily Telegraph. He encourages feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org