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George Eldridge could always run and run, but if it wasn’t for a freshman basketball coach, he might not have realized that he could channel his talent into a memorable career as a cross country or track runner.
“Fred Money was our basketball coach and for conditioning, he told us to run three laps on the cross country course,” Eldridge said. “I ran my three laps and put my sweats on. I was sitting on the bank while the rest were starting their second lap. Coach Money came out and started to get on me, but the assistant coach told him that I had been done for a while. He came up to me and asked me if I ever considered running cross country.”
That night, Eldridge competed at a cross country meet at Pendleton County, finishing in the top five runners and starting a hall of fame cross country and track career.
Eldridge (Class of 1979) has been selected to be a part of the inaugural Grant County High School Athletic Hall of Fame and will be recognized at halftime of the Grant County boys’ basketball game on Jan. 16.
“I guarantee that there isn’t anyone prouder about being selected for this honor,” Eldridge said. “It was overwhelming. As far as accomplishments, this is one of the greatest I’ve had in my life. I worked hard for it and I’m going in with some fine athletes.”
“George was one of those runners that could just keeping running and running,” Scott Shipp, Grant County’s athletic director, said. “He had a lot of individual and team accomplishments. Through his career, his team made their mark on the cross country program.”
Eldridge was a part of four regional cross country championship teams, won the individual regional cross country championship his senior year, won the 100-yard dash at the regional meet his senior year and helped his mile relay team finish eighth at state his senior year. He also set seven course records during his high school cross country career. While he credits Money for directing him to the cross country team, he believes that coach Ron Thomas and his assistant coach, Dan Baker, helped him reach his potential.
Eldridge relied on his natural ability, but also put the work in to get better.
“I just loved to run and I was pretty fast,” Eldridge said. “Once I did it, I loved it and I think my strength was my stamina. I just never got tired. I’d go to practice at school, work on the farm and then run eight miles from my house to Dry Ridge and back. I always had a great kick to finish. I felt like a thoroughbred when you let the reigns go.”
Eldridge believes that the lessons he learned while competing have helped him with the rest of his life, especially with his job.
“I graduated on a Sunday and the next Monday, I went to work,” Eldridge said. “I learned from track and cross country that if you work hard, the results will show. You’ve got to have the heart to do your best.”
During track season, Eldridge competed in the 100 yard dash, 220, 440, 880 and anchored the mile relay. One regret that Eldridge has is that he wasn’t able to help the mile relay attain a regional championship.
“One thing I remember the most is that my senior year, we had a great mile relay team,” Eldridge said. “We competed so hard. We battled the other team the whole way and we were nose-to-nose. I just leaned forward a little too early, but we still were able to compete at the state level.”
Competing against some of the best athletes that the state has to offer is still something that Eldridge remembers.
“All four years I ran, we went to state and my senior year we finished third,” Eldridge said. “I kept a scrapbook and I wore it out still looking at it. I still never thought I would get an honor like this. It’s a special feeling.”
Eldridge lists his parents, Barbara and the late George Eldridge, as motivators for his success.
“My mom was a major motivator for me because she never missed a meet,” Eldridge said. “My dad came to see me run for the first time at the regional meet my senior year at Mason County. It felt great to do it in front of him.”
Eldridge has two daughters, Taylor and Mallory.
He will always remember his senior year in 1979, not only for the success his cross country and track teams enjoyed, but also for the success that the basketball team had.
“It was a great year for us, period,” Eldridge said. “The camaraderie of my friends means a lot to me. We had a great, well-rounded class. I don’t know if there’s been another class like us.”