Erick's Mile connects this year's winner, Grove family

The snippet of the connective tissue of the running world was on display at the Carthage Invitational earlier this season.

Longtime Carthage track and field coach Ed Streich started the tradition of renaming the 1,600-meter run the 'Erick's Mile' after the late Erick Grove.

He was a standout runner for the Tigers that graduated in 1990 and went on to run at Division I Southeast Missouri State before dying in an accident in 1991.

During the meet this year the public address announcer read a script about the importance of the mile and the impact Grove had on the Tigers' track and field and cross country programs.

He earned all-state honors in both sports and still to this day holds the school record in the 1,600-meter at 4:17.18 in the district meet his senior year.

He beat a runner from West Plains he hadn't beat all year and that helped propel Carthage to its first district crown in Class 4A. His late sprint took a lot out of him and he placed fifth in his best event - the 3,200 - and missed a trip to state. He would go to the state meet in Jefferson City and earn all-state medals in 1,600 and 4x800-meter relay.

This year's winner of the race was Neosho's Kaden Cole, who finished in 4:24.27, making a late pass down the stretch to beat Joplin's Hobbs Campbell.

With about 150 meters left, the senior took off and surged into first place and won by 2 ½ seconds.

"It's amazing," Cole said of the win. "I've been chasing it since high school, knowing it was a big thing at this meet. It definitely feels good to get it secured."

Later in the meet, Erick's parents, Rick and Donna, showed up and presented Cole with the plaque honoring their late son.

This time, though, the Groves got something back from the winner. Cole handed them two photos.

Rick Grove could be heard saying 'where did you get these?"

The two photos were of Erick Grove running in a meet more than 30 years ago against Dennis Cole from Neosho. Kaden's dad ran for Hall of Fame coach Harry Lineberry from 1986 to 1989 and ran in the same conference as Erick Grove.

Kaden was going to give the Groves the photos regardless of the outcome of the race, but the win made it 'pretty cool' to do so in that circumstance.

"It meant a lot to me for him to win that race," Dennis Cole said. "Erick was a fierce competitor and just running against him in my high school days was a great honor and it also solidified him as one of the area's better runners. The company of runners that have won that award are some of the very best.

"I still remember how much competitiveness he (Erick) had. He had no quit in him, he had talent and he had guts. That makes for a tough runner and one that is hard to beat."