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Roger Erricker, longtime former Towson University track, cross country coach, dies

Roger Erricker had lifelong relationships with athletes he had coached over the years.
Roger Erricker had lifelong relationships with athletes he had coached over the years. (Handout / HANDOUT)

Roger Erricker, who coached Towson University’s track and cross country teams for 30 years, guiding countless Tigers athletes as one of the university’s all-time longest-serving coaches, died of cancer Sept. 12 at home.

The Bel Air resident was 67.

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Mr. Erricker and his wife of 38 years, Elizabeth “Liz” Erricker, had no children, but he trained and looked after his athletes — many of whom came from out of state — as if they were his own, she said.

“We’ve loved each other all these years, just great companions,” Mrs. Erricker said. “He always considered all his track kids his children, so he was very much fulfilled in that regard.”

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Mr. Erricker, who enjoyed vacationing at Deep Creek Lake and in New Hampshire, retired in 2015 as the coach with the fourth-longest tenure in Towson history, after soccer coach Donald “Doc” Minnegan, lacrosse coach Carl Runk and soccer coach Frank Olszewski.

The 1978 Mason-Dixon Conference indoor high jump record holder at what is now Frostburg State University, Mr. Erricker found similar success as a coach after working for a few years as a huntsman, like his father, caring for foxhounds at Andrews Bridge Fox Hunt Club in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and the Elkridge-Harford Hunt Club in Monkton.

Roger Erricker coached the Tigers' track and cross country teams for 30 years.
Roger Erricker coached the Tigers' track and cross country teams for 30 years. (Courtesy of Elizabeth Erricker)

Upon learning of his death, his former athletes filled an alumni Facebook page he created with tributes:

“You changed my life forever” … “beloved coach who taught us all so much” … “Heaven has gained a jogging Angel that is eager to coach someone in preparation for those Penn Relays in the Sky.”

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Roger Gordon Ian Erricker was born in Taunton, United Kingdom, on July 8, 1954, to Thomas Gordon Edwin Erricker, a huntsman, and the former Sheila May Knight, a homemaker.

The second eldest of four children, he immigrated with his family to the U.S. at age 2. They lived in Virginia, then Montgomery County, where he attended Gaithersburg High School and won the state high jump title with a 6-foot, 6-inch leap.

Mr. Erricker attended Charleston Southern University for a year, then transferred to Montgomery College, where he won the Eastern Junior College high jump championship. He graduated in 1979 from Frostburg State, where he set a high jump record of 6 feet, 7 inches and earned degrees in history and social science.

At Frostburg, a mutual friend introduced him to Elizabeth Garner. They married in her hometown, Silver Spring, in 1983.

“We would just laugh every time we had an anniversary,” she said, “because time would just fly.”

The couple moved to Cockeysville after Mr. Erricker left the huntsman life for a job coaching track at Howard High School. His 1985 squad won the Maryland boys high school championship, and Laurie Governor won the state girls shot put title, setting a record that stood for more than a decade.

At Towson, Mr. Erricker coached the only four women’s track and field athletes in the university’s athletics Hall of Fame: Vikki Benhardt Epps, Teri Campbell Travers, Kelly Robinson and Maureen Shaneman Hall.

He guided high jumper Laura Passalacqua, javelin thrower Robinson and hurdler Ashley Adams to NCAA Division I championships.

In Mr. Erricker’s 25th season coaching, the 2009-10 Towson indoor track team broke 14 school records with Adams, the first Tiger to win the Eastern College Athletic Conference indoor pentathlon title, leading the way.

His teams also excelled academically, with cross country “perched … on the top rung of the athletic department’s semester grade point average ladder,” according to the university.

Ms. Robinson, a New Jersey native, was on scholarship for basketball. But she said Mr. Erricker invited her to throw the javelin after learning she’d been on the track team in high school, trained her after basketball practice and accompanied her to meets in Florida, Texas and California.

“He gave me the opportunity to do two sports at a D-I school,” she said. “Him and his wife, they became like parents, because a lot of times your parents, when you’re in college, aren’t with you. He became like a father figure for me.”

Ms. Robinson described him as a coach who only raised his voice in excitement and never micromanaged his athletes on meet day.

“He left it up to you,” she said. “You know what you need to do. He was just always there with hugs and love and support, whether you did well or you did horrible.”

A Washington Football Team and New York Yankees fan, Mr. Erricker marveled at the beauty of Loon Mountain in Lincoln, New Hampshire, where he and his wife vacationed each summer.

Mrs. Erricker said they cherished lifelong relationships with athletes he had coached over the years.

“We have gone to weddings and found out about their lives, and a lot of them stayed in contact with Roger as adults,” Mrs. Erricker said. “Most of them are now in their 40s and whatnot, so he just got to share their lives way past college.”

A celebration of life is planned for Friday at the Fallston United Methodist Church, 1509 Fallston Road. Masks are required. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Humane Society of Harford County or a favorite organization or a tree may be planted.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Erricker is survived by sisters Lesley Hower of Winchester, Virginia, and Paula Hagan of Gaithersburg; a brother, Ian Erricker of Point of Rocks in Frederick County; as well as many in-laws, nieces and nephews.

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