Paragraph 7 reads: "Last June, Custance died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound near his family's home in Ruch, a week or so after he stopped taking an anti-depressant drug to relieve side aches and lower back pain. "
Custance helped put together big Newland meet
Prep NotebookBy DON HUNT
The runners who participate in Friday?s sixth annual Bob Newland Invitational are probably too young to remember Perry Custance.
They probably don?t know that he was the top distance runner in South Medford High School history, setting school records in the 1,500 and 3,000 meters that still stand.
Or that he once finished 13th at the state cross country meet after slipping and falling halfway through the race and getting trampled on by a pack of runners.
Or that he displayed the guts of a bullfighter at the 1999 Southern Oregon Conference district meet when he essentially went into a sprint with two laps to go to stun Klamath Union star Ian Dobson and win the 1,500.
Few trained harder. Fewer still ran harder in a race.
And not many loved and respected track more than Custance, a shy, introspective individual who helped established the Newland meet for sophomores and freshmen as part of his senior project in 2000.
Last June, Custance died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound near his family?s home in Ruch, a week or so after he stopped taking an anti-depressant drug to relieve side aches and lower back pain.
Custance, who was set to graduate from Oregon Tech last fall with a degree in software engineering, would flash one of his sly smiles if he knew what the Newland meet has become: a 17-team track and field extravaganza featuring more than 400 runners, jumpers and throwers.
The sixth annual event kicks off Friday at 4 p.m. at South Medford High.
"Perry helped set the framework and the structure of this meet," South Medford track coach Bill Rowan says. "He was the one out there getting sponsors, contacting schools and getting volunteers to work it.
"That first year, I think we had nine teams. Now we?ve got 17. We get new coaches calling every year who want to be a part of it.
"Spotlighting the younger kids was a great idea."
In honor of his former standout, Rowan has implemented the "Custance Mile" that will be run in place of the 1,500 Friday.
Most of Custance?s family will be present: Father Gary, mother Wanda, sister Fairlight and Fairlight?s sons, Grant, 2, and Aaron, 3 months.
Fairlight?s husband, Brett, a captain in the United States Army, is serving in Iraq.
Prior to the mile, the family will be acknowledged and Perry commemorated.
"We?re really touched by this," says Gary Custance, a Medford certified public accountant who attended virtually all of his son?s meets at South. "It means a lot to Wanda and I, knowing that people think so much of our son."
The Newland Invitational is Medford?s only large-scale track event following the demise of the Rogue Relays in the 1980s.
"Perry meant a lot to us," says Rowan, meaning himself and his wife, Sandy, who coaches the South Medford distance runners. "He was a great kid and the ultimate competitor. We?ve never had a kid who ran as hard as Perry, not even close."
Reach reporter Don Hunt at 776-4469, or e-mail email@example.com