TERRE HAUTE —
The genesis of Erica Moore’s passion for running is probably not a unique tale for women’s athletes.
The Sullivan native discovered her talent in elementary school.
“Probably on the playground in elementary school, I found out I was fast, faster than all the boys, which was very exciting,” Moore said. “I would set up obstacle courses on the playground, I would always designate myself as the anchor. I fell in love with running at an early age, just being a typical competitive child.”
Moore would become an all-state performer at Sullivan High School and an All-American at Indiana State before taking third in the World Indoor Championships in the 800 meters two years ago. Now training for the 2016 Summer Olympics, the 25-year-old will be inducted into the Indiana Association of Track and Cross Country Coaches Hall of Fame this weekend.
“She was the consummate competitor, would do anything she was asked,” said John Gartland, who was ISU’s head women’s track and field coach during Moore’s four years in Terre Haute. “She would intimidate her competition at times because she was so aggressive. I just loved that. It carries over to everybody. That’s what you want to have.”
While he didn’t offer her a scholarship until Moore was a teenager, Gartland remembers seeing her potential much earlier.
“I remember her dad, Jeff Moore, bringing her and her brother Jeffrey to our outdoor track at a summer club type meet. I remember her long jumping, she was 9 years old, and I thought at the time, I better keep an eye on her,” Gartland said.
Moore was an immediate force in both her freshman seasons at Sullivan High School and in a Sycamore uniform. Moore qualified for the state finals as a freshman for the Golden Arrows then competed in three events at the state finals as a sophomore. She scored in both long jump and the 400 meters as a junior. With school records in the 200, 400, 100 hurdles, 300 hurdles and 800, Moore focused on the 300 hurdles as a senior and took third in the state.
“It was long jump and 400 when I first started working with her,” said former Sullivan coach Pete Jones. “To make a long story short, we got into high school, one day, we put her in the hurdles and found out she could do 300 hurdles really well.”
She didn’t just rest on natural ability. Moore established a disciplined work ethic in high school that she carried with her to ISU.
“She was a pleasure to work with, I know that. She wouldn’t miss practice and was always going to do her weights after practice,” Jones said.
Moore won the 400 hurdles at the Missouri Valley Conference meet as a freshman and set the school record in the event to qualify for the Mideast Regional.
As a sophomore, she took 19th in the NCAA outdoor championships in the 400 hurdles, while also showing the versatility she did in high school. Moore was second in the 400, fourth in long jump and fifth in the 100 hurdles in the MVC championships.
Moore’s list of accomplishments grew to epic proportions over the next two years, making her one of the top track and field athletes in Missouri Valley Conference history.
As a junior, Moore set the MVC record in indoor pentathlon (4,030 points) and the 800 (2 minutes, 4.94 seconds). She was a two-time All-American in the 800 indoors. She took 17th in the NCAA in the heptathlon in the 2009 NCAA outdoor championships. As a senior, she focused on the 400 hurdles, taking one final All-American honor with a sixth-place finish.
When she heard she was going to be inducted, Moore said she quickly became reminiscent.
“It was such a nostalgic event when I found out I was getting in the Hall of Fame. It brought back a lot of memories and made me realize how sentimental I was about growing up in Indiana,” Moore said. “Growing up, I was one of those kids, just waiting to get out, waiting to be independent and go and do and see, which I think is a totally natural feeling when you’re a teenager. I’m at the point I can kind of reflect on growing up in Indiana and feel an attachment to it.
“It sparked a lot of feelings, just realizing how much support comes from that one state,” Moore said. “I have my family there. I have a lot of ties and connections, and people who have seen me run and compete from a young age. I have a sentimentality for my childhood in Indiana and all the people that supported me.”
Following graduation from ISU, Moore continued her studies at the University of Tennessee, where she acquired the coaching services of one of the top middle distance coaches in the nation. Her focus became the 800. She trained with former Volunteers’ standout Phoebe Wright, who was former Tennessee walk-on turned two-time NCAA champion in the 800.
“I think, on paper, I was probably a better 400 hurdler than anything. Just from knowing my physiology, and knowing how I had trained and what I had trained for, I just felt like the 800 was one of the most untapped events for me,” Moore said. “I think it was more intuition. My senior year of college, I started pushing myself to do more runs with the cross country girls and building more aerobic strength and saw results within that one season. A little intuition and experimentation and I felt like I’m probably too skinny to be a sprinter, a 400 runner.”
Moore’s professional career took off under Clark’s coaching as she peaked with a bronze-medal finish at the World Indoor Championships in the 800 with a career-best time of 1:59.97.
Soon after, she began dealing with an Achilles injury that derailed her training.
“The last time I raced well has been probably a year and a half ago,” Moore said. “It’s such a different approach now. When I think back to what I did to my Achilles, I basically ran it into the ground, ignorantly. You only have one of these tendons. I can’t believe I was so negligent. I’ll definitely never do that. I was in the frame of mind of running was do or die.”
Moore has learned from it and is hoping she can build back to that level.
“Now, as you get older in the sport, it’s more of a long-term approach. It’s a good setup for the next few years,” said Moore, who was invited to join the Brooks Breasts at Brooks’ headquarters in Seattle. “Definitely got saved by the Brooks company. They started a new training group out here. We have resources that are free of charge. Physical therapists, anything you need to stay healthy. It’s a great set-up.”
Moore will compete Feb. 14 at Iowa State to ease back into racing.
“I’m starting to see the light. Just recently was like I might actually run fast again. I was pretty bummed and kind of prepared for the fact that my running career might be over. I was starting to think about real-world things and post-running life. It seems like with all the resources out here, I might get another chance.”
Moore is hoping her more mature approach to her training will help her succeed.
“I couldn’t imagine my life without it. Now, it’s a much more realistic approach to running. I still love it and still extremely passionate about it, but I’ll never put myself in position to be out for a year and a half,” Moore said.
TERRE HAUTE —
The genesis of Erica Moore’s passion for running is probably not a unique tale for women’s athletes.
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