ABINGDON — The Virginia Creeper Trail is one of the most popular recreation spots in the entire area.
On Wednesday, a new bench was dedicated to late Abingdon High School cross country coach Don Cumbow near the gazebo about a quarter- mile from the Abingdon trailhead.
“I truly think that he would want us to remember him by the impact that he had on each of our lives,” Abingdon Mayor Derek Webb said. “He was truly impactful in my life and in my journey. When I think of him, I think of him chasing us around in the ‘Gray Ghost,’ which was his truck.
“He always wanted to draw the most out of people and just make us better people.”
Webb is a former Abingdon all-state runner who ran under Cumbow all four years in high school. He and many other alums, fellow coaches, and friends shared stories after the unveiling of the bench.
“When I see this beautiful setup we have here, I will certainly think of Coach sitting here and watching people coming from both directions,” Webb said.
Cumbow started the cross country program in 1974 and was part of a “golden era” of coaches from the area who built up the sport in the early 1980s.
Cumbow remained at the helm until his passing on July 1, 2019, at the age of 74.
He was the second-longest serving cross country or track coach in the state behind only Jim Holdren at Maggie Walker Governor’s School in Richmond.
Under Cumbow’s tutelage, the Abingdon girls won the VHSL Group AA team title in 1988. He also was the coach when the Abingdon girls track team shared the championship with Harrisonburg in 1994.
“If I could give you a quote from Coach Cumbow, it would say something like don’t take hostages, run your race and be the best you can possibly be,” Webb said. “It’s cool to be out here a couple of decades after I ran to see a lot of the same crowd.”
Cumbow coached two Foot Locker cross country national finalists — Katrina Berkeley (1986) and Griff Graves (2006 and 2007) — and numerous all-state runners in both track and cross country.
The current Falcons squad — top-ranked in Class 3 boys and in the top 5 on the girls side — is poised to have a postseason for the ages. Wednesday, however, was a special day that many will remember long after the season comes to an end.
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