In Memoriam: Larry Drew
Larry Drew, long-time mathematics teacher, cross-country coach, and track and field coach at Thetford Academy, passed away on Sunday evening, Dec. 2, at the age of 85. And while he performed many roles at Thetford Academy, “Mr. Drew” (as his student-athletes addressed him), was probably best known as the face of cross-country at the school.
Mr. Drew took the reins as head coach in 1971, the second year the sport was offered at TA. Under his leadership, the girls team would win five Vermont State Championships (1975, 1981, 1994, 1995, 1996), and the boys team would win three (1973, 1984, 1998). One of his most talented runners, Emily (Grossman) Reilly, a New England Champion and three-time individual Vermont State Champion, remembered Mr. Drew “as the person who convinced me to run, so he gets credit for changing my life! In seventh grade, we ran the mile in gym class, and I ran the fastest time in the class for both boys and girls. Mr. Drew heard about that, and kept nagging me to sign up for track, until I finally relented (mostly just to get him off my back!).”
Though Mr. Drew certainly liked to win, he was about much more than winning. All of his runners––slowest to fastest––received his full attention. In fact, his long-time assistant, Joe Deffner put it this way: “Larry had a real soft spot for those kids who would benefit from running––maybe their home lives weren’t great, maybe they needed to develop a little confidence, or maybe it was something else. But I can’t count the number of times he would turn to me and say of a runner who faced obstacles, ‘He [or she] needs cross-country way more than we need him.’ And so Larry would find a way––even when the kid missed practice––to keep him on the team. In the process, he helped a lot of kids and we always had a diverse group of runners.”
Now, his advice, often unorthodox training techniques, and trademark humor live on in at least one of the children whose parent he coached. Emily Reilly recently explained that to this day she quotes Mr. Drew’s sage (and corny) advice to her daughter when she’s getting ready for a race: “Hurry back!” Or, in track, “Just keep making left turns until you get to the finish line!” According to Emily, her daughter will promptly roll her eyes and say, “Yeah, yeah…I know…that’s what your coach used to say to you!”
Whether you were one of his math students, one of his runners, or a teaching or coaching colleague, you were better for having known Mr. Drew. As Scott DiFrancesco (’03) put it, “Anyone who ever had the privilege of meeting Mr. Drew knew that he was truly one of a kind.” Indeed he was. Well run, Mr. Drew.
NOTE: Some of this remembrance is excerpted from an upcoming article about TA’s cross country program to be published in a book for the school’s Bicentennial.