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Published September 17 2010

Runner remembered: Local runners compete at Nelson Metro Classic

The Andrew Nelson Metro Classic cross country meet holds special memories for Jessica Clinton.

The three-year old event is named after her brother, a former Fargo Shanley runner who was killed in Iraq in 2007 as a member the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division.

Each year, the meet gives Clinton and her mother, Suzanne, a chance to reflect on Andrew’s life and legacy as a tenacious competitor and a patriot.

It’s also a time to remember that life sometimes has a funny way of steering a person in the right direction.

“My husband and I actually met at this meet,” Jessica said during Thursday’s Metro Classic at Lindenwood Park. “He ran cross country with Andrew in high school. … He was here helping out and we started talking. Now we’re married.”

Jessica’s husband, Chris Clinton, is a Moorhead Park Christian graduate who spent a few years with Andrew on the Shanley cross country team. He is currently deployed as a member of the Army.

With her husband overseas, Jessica moved back to Moorhead.

She handed out awards Thursday to the place winners of the varsity girls and boys races.

The awards, like the event, were created to honor Andrew’s memory.

With the American flag as a backdrop, each plaque depicted a tennis shoe crossing the tape of a finish line.

It tells Andrew’s story perfectly, Suzanne Nelson said.

Andrew Nelson knew early on that he wanted to join the Army.

He dragged his mother to the recruiter’s office as a 17-year-old high school junior to sign papers authorizing him to join early.

“It was a calling because he felt a love of country,” said Suzanne, who earlier in the day helped dedicate the Andrew P. Nelson Memorial Track at Townsite Park in Moorhead. “That’s what he wanted to do. His dad and his grandfather before him did that.”

He didn’t enter into the decision lightly, Jessica said. He gathered the facts, thought it out and made the decision that was right for him.

“I don’t even remember him talking to me about it,” Jessica said. “His mind was just made up.”

He showed the same resolve in prep cross country and track and field.

“He loved it because he knew he wasn’t competing with anyone one else but himself,” Suzanne said. “He was doing it to better himself, his mental ability, his physical ability, and to see the progress that he could make was important.”

Fargo Davies junior Tarin Lachowitzer won the girls varsity 4-kilometer race. Moorhead senior Lukas Gemar was the boy’s 5K winner.

“It’s exciting,” Jessica said. “It’s something for us to look forward to every year.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Heath Hotzler at (701) 241-5562.

Hotzler’s blogs can be found

at www.areavoices.com