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Cross Country: Area Coaches Give Up Award to Honor a Legend

Tom Nolan Receives Both Boys And Girls COY Award for 2007

Grant Alexander

Picking this year’s All-Acadiana cross country coach was easy this year.
It was barely up for discussion. It was going to the one man who sculpted the sport into what it is today. It was going to Tom Nolan.
"Everyone in life has someone that touches them, that inspires them to be whatever it is that they dream to be," Lafayette High cross country coach Kelly Brown-LaMaison said. "Every aspect of Coach Tom Nolan’s life was inspirational.
"He lived for the kids he taught and coached, he lived for his sport, he lived for God and most of all he lived. Coach never wanted the bells and whistles that came along with all of his success through the years … he would always give the glory back to his kids or his colleagues."
Brown-LaMaison is just one of the coaches who sacrificed their right to be named coach of the year. Brown-LaMaison is one of hundreds of people who Nolan touched and had similar things to say about him.
"Without Tom Nolan, cross country wouldn’t be what it is today in this area," long-time college Ron Baillergeon said. "When he started in 1979 it wasn’t a big event. He brought it to prominence. He understood that he had to help everyone to make it competitive."
For most people, the name Tom Nolan is synonymous with dignity and excellence in cross country.
"I’ve never met anyone who had anything but great things to say about Tom," current University of Louisiana cross country coach Tim LeMaire. "He was just an icon for cross country and there wasn’t a better cross country coach in the state."
LeMaire said one other important aspect of Nolan’s coaching career was his passion for the sport.
"He wasn’t just one of these football coaches who got stuck with cross country," LeMaire said. "It makes you wonder why him? We need more people like him out there coaching these kids. He made a difference in a lot of kids lives."
Before LeMaire arrived at UL, Nolan had been on the last team to win conference in cross country.
"Back in 2004, after we won conference, he came in my office and we just talked about old times," LeMaire recalled. "That’s something I’ll always remember. He was just a great guy.
"His outlook on training and on life in general was so uplifting. The sport is definitely going to hurt without him, but he’s brought in some new blood and it’s up to them to carry on his legacy."
For all of the coaches in the area, Nolan was a fountain of knowledge.
"I just wish I could have memorized everything he had to say," Brown-LaMaison said, adding, "I wish he could have stayed. He was so genuine and true. He’s probably the reason why myself and our colleagues are where we are today."
It was Nolan’s willingness to help even opposing coaches that made him important to the entire cross country community.
"He understood that for the sport to grow and for competition to get better, he was going to have to help out everyone," Baillergeon said. "He really embodied the Olympic spirit. It was all about the spirit of competition."
Baillergeon also admired his work ethic.
"He fought, and worked hard to build this sport," Baillergeon said. "It’s not fun sometimes, but he was always there to give a helping hand."
Towards the end of his illness, Nolan wrote one last message to his friends and colleagues.
"I’ve run the good race. I’ve given my all. I tried to be a good son, a good husband, a good teacher, friend and coach. I tried hard to follow Jesus through the gates. I hope I did all HE wanted me to do.
"Thanks for everything everyone is doing and has done for me. Love and peace to all. Keep the Spartan XC program going."

Story provided by Grant Alexander

Published in the Daily Advertiser December 31, 2007