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LIVING THE DREAM: Windsor's Guy Payne still active in track and field circle after five decades at King's-Edgehill School

Guy Payne looks over a keepsake presented to him when he retired from full-time employment from King's-Edgehill School.
Guy Payne looks over a keepsake presented to him when he retired from full-time employment from King's-Edgehill School. - Carole Morris-Underhill

WINDSOR, N.S. — Kind. Compassionate. Unassuming. Humble.

These are all characteristics that people have used to describe Guy Payne, a long-time track coach at King’s-Edgehill School.

Payne officially retired in 2008 but remains a staple on campus, still attending track practice on average twice a week.

“He dedicated his life to sports and students. It’s almost beyond dedication, to the point where it’s in the bone — it’s what he does. It’s as natural to him as breathing, in a lot of ways,” said Kevin Lakes, a teacher at the private school in Windsor.

“I would say he’s had contact with, therefore helped, over 50 years, thousands of kids.”

Lakes says his decision to teach at King’s-Edgehill was partially due to meeting Payne.

“He was the welcoming, kind face of King’s. He changed my life to a certain extent by encouraging me to work here and I’ve had a good career and I’m grateful to him for that for sure,” said Lakes.

Guy Payne displays a special hand print high five memory book that some of his student-athletes presented to him in 2008. - Carole Morris-Underhill
Guy Payne displays a special hand print high five memory book that some of his student-athletes presented to him in 2008. - Carole Morris-Underhill

For the love of sport

Payne, who is a soft-spoken 75-year-old, was born in Montreal and attended St. John’s Ravenscourt School in Manitoba before heading to Bishop’s University in Quebec.

“What’s not known about Guy maybe as widely as it should be is he was a great athlete himself. He was a fantastic football player,” said Lakes, noting Payne played quarterback while at university, and “was an exemplary hockey player.”

When asked about his athletic accomplishments in university, a sly smile spreads across Payne’s face. He sheepishly says “I got by” before switching the topic.

Payne isn’t one to seek the spotlight. Rather, he’s the first one to highlight the accomplishments of others.

It’s this dedication to helping others succeed that made him a perfect fit at King’s-Edgehill.

While walking in Montreal, Payne says he bumped into a friend who told him about a job opening at KES. Within two weeks of reaching out to the headmaster, Payne had landed a job. He started in 1967. It was a few years later that Payne discovered a love of track.

“In those days, it was important that everybody participate in coaching two sports. Since football didn’t have a team here, I thought it might be fun to do the track,” said Payne.

Within about 10 years of coaching, Payne said he launched a program designed to help students run faster. In 1973, he began to keep statistics, which eventually were compiled into the Wall of Payne — a list featuring the top track athletes of all time at KES. Each year, a new crop of students attempts to get their names on the list.

“It’s interesting because it became, quite often, a goal for the athletes,” said Payne.

Payne has helped countless athletes reach personal and school bests over the decades. He’s seen them blossom on the field, and in their personal lives. For Payne, it’s rewarding to see the students come into their own.

“I remember struggling a bit when I was a younger athlete and I always thought, if I could, I’d get into coaching and help them work through difficulties because many of the difficulties are life difficulties as well,” said Payne, noting how therapeutic sport can be.


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Guy Payne spent about five decades coaching and encouraging student-athletes to reach for the stars. - Contributed
Guy Payne spent about five decades coaching and encouraging student-athletes to reach for the stars. - Contributed

A compassionate mentor

Even in the dead of winter, with snowbanks piled high, Celia Peters says Payne was always willing to help her train.

“There were snow banks on both sides of the road and him and I were out there doing a workout,” recalled Peters. “He was holding my jacket at the end so that when I finished, I wouldn’t get too cold during the rest period. I think that just shows his commitment to his athletes.”

Peters, who attended KES from 2003 to 2005, had a successful track career at the school. The New Glasgow native was named a provincial champion in the 400-metre and the 200-metre events in 2004 and in her Grade 12 year, won the provincial 400-metre title as well.

Following high school, Peters spent one year at Queen’s University, where she was named track rookie of the year, and then transferred to Dalhousie University where she raced for five years. She won countless accolades, including being named Dalhousie’s Female Athlete of the Year in 2010 and receiving a CIS silver and bronze medal that same year.

Peters pursued a career as a semi-professional track and field athlete, where she travelled across the world. She now works in marketing.

Peters says while she always had an interest in track, Payne was a great coach and someone who inspired athletes to reach for the stars.

“He really approached coaching with compassion and patience and some humour too,” she said.

“I would say that he has an unassuming approach that is really calm,” Peters said. “It’s unassuming but he knows his stuff and he was a great support.”

Anyone who participated in track will remember Payne for requesting high fives at the end of training or track meets. Payne says that simple gesture started early on in his coaching career as a way to provide encouragement and praise to the athletes.

Guy Payne, and his children, Jason, Melissa, Meg, and Jillian, were always active in the sports community. - Contributed
Guy Payne, and his children, Jason, Melissa, Meg, and Jillian, were always active in the sports community. - Contributed

Introducing the Track of Payne

In order to honour Payne’s contributions to track not only in town but at the provincial level, King’s-Edgehill has named its new state-of-the-art track after him.

The Track of Payne is nearing completion — it will be finished in 2019 — and school officials say it will draw high-calibre athletes and competitions to KES.

Headmaster Joe Seagram said in a previous interview about the track that it was a fitting tribute to the local coach.

“He’s just a legend in track circles in Atlantic Canada,” said Seagram.

“There wouldn’t be a coach or track official in Atlantic Canada that wouldn’t know Guy. We’re thrilled to be able to do this, to be able to construct it and be able to remember his contribution — not just to track and field and fitness here at the school but throughout Nova Scotia.”

This is an aerial image of the newly-revamped Jakeman Field. The outside track, which has been named after Guy Payne, will be completed next summer and will be royal blue in colour to match King's-Edgehill School's colours. - Contributed
This is an aerial image of the newly-revamped Jakeman Field. The outside track, which has been named after Guy Payne, will be completed next summer and will be royal blue in colour to match King's-Edgehill School's colours. - Contributed

Payne says the track is a great addition to the school, even if he’s humbled by it being named after him.

“I’m very appreciative of the recognition but at the same time I’m embarrassed,” said Payne.

“Every time I leave the house, if I’m in the car, I talk my wife into driving up through the campus so I can see how it’s going. I’m amazed to see there’s always somebody on the field.”

Peters says the recognition is fitting.

“I’m so excited that King’s-Edgehill is investing in the track. I think that it will really take the campus and the Town of Windsor to the next level and there’s so much opportunity there to inspire young athletes in the area to make sure that they have the facilities that they need to host events,” said Peters.

“For it to be named in honour of Mr. Payne, it’s just the cherry on the top. I think it’s really well-deserved,” she continued.

Payne is still involved with the track program at King’s-Edgehill, though not to the same extent. He now volunteers his expertise.

“I’m really lucky that the coaches who have succeeded me have let me work with them,” says Payne, with a smile as he looks over a photo album containing career highlights.

He tries to make it to practice twice a week during the peak season.

“There’s some days it’s a little harder than others because, aside from getting older and retiring, I suffer from Parkinson’s,” said Payne.

Despite his medical condition, the College Road resident is still putting in the time and effort to help young people succeed. It’s a dedication that doesn’t go unnoticed.

“He’s not even teaching here anymore and he’ll come up and teach the kids, which we encourage,” said Lakes. “That’s even more impressive.”

Guy Payne, who has been a staple at King's-Edgehill School, stands alongside the track during a cross-country race Oct. 3. The track is named Track of Payne to honour the long-time coach. - Contributed
Guy Payne, who has been a staple at King's-Edgehill School, stands alongside the track during a cross-country race Oct. 3. The track is named Track of Payne to honour the long-time coach. - Contributed

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