City of Gillette road crews methodically drove the 8-mile, figure-eight route Wednesday afternoon, placing markers at mile intervals in silent reverence.
The markers symbolize much more than the distance remaining in Sunday’s second annual Memory of the 8 run/walk.
They represent lives cut tragically short when eight University of Wyoming cross country runners were killed in a car accident caused by a drunken driver Sept. 16, 2001.
Each marker has a photograph and the name of each of the young men who died that tragic morning 17 miles south of Laramie on U.S. 287, five days after the terrorist attacks that brought down the World Trade Center.
With the city’s involvement, each mile marker also will have a code that links to a web page including a biography of each of the eight young men.
“Each photo has a QR code. If you scan it with your Smartphone, it will take you to a web page with information on all of the runners,” city spokesman Joe Lunne said.
The Memory of the 8 run/walk pays tribute to 1999 Campbell County High School graduate Morgan McLeland, Nicholas Schabron of Laramie, Justin Lambert-Belanger of Timmons, Ontario, Kyle Johnson of Riverton, Kevin Salverson of Cheyenne, Shane Shatto of Douglas, Joshua Jones of Laramie and Cody Brown of Hudson, Colo.
The event is co-sponsored by the Razor City Runner’s Club and the McLeland family.
The inaugural run last year was in conjunction with the 10th anniversary of the worst sports tragedy in Wyoming history and attracted almost 100 runners and walkers.
Razor City Runner’s Club member Sonny Roberts was instrumental in making it happen. Roberts approached the City Council last summer about the markers and the city backed the effort.
“I like having our event on the actual day (of the accident),” Roberts said. “I really like the idea of the signs and knowing more about the runners. We’ll do some things different this year, but we’re still learning.”
There is no registration fee for the run or walk, but donations to cover costs — and fund runner’s scholarships for college-bound athletes from Campbell County — are welcomed. T-shirts can be purchased and a barbecue and social run will follow.
Runners and walkers can pre-register online at www.memoryofthe8.com or on race day at M&K Oil from 4:30 to 5 p.m.
“The fact that the runner’s club wants to do this helps a bunch (in our grieving process),” said Deb McLeland, Morgan’s mother. “Sonny didn’t even know Morgan, but he wants to do this. Raising money for the scholarships helps make something good out of something bad.
“I hope that, because it’s on a Sunday, that more people will be able to participate.”
It’s always a difficult time of the year for the family, said Jim McLeland, Morgan’s father.
But knowing that the community still remembers and wants to pay tribute to a fallen son makes things a little more bearable.
“I really appreciate the scholarships in his name,” he said. “We just appreciate everything Sonny and the runner’s club is doing.”
Taylor Kelting of Gillette just finished his running career at the University of Wyoming.
He was a few years behind McLeland at Campbell County High School, but he is well aware of the tragedy from both the hometown perspective as well as at the university.
“In our team round at the University of Wyoming there’s the eight Cowboys,” Kelting said. “Every time I go in there, I always look at that picture of Morgan. We have the Cowboy (run) down here in Laramie this weekend. They have post signs here too. Morgan’s is mile three and every time I run by, I think of him.”
If you go
When: September 16, 2012
Where: M&K Oil, South 4J Road
What: 8-mile run or 5K walk
Time: 5 p.m. walkers; 6 p.m. runners