David Angus Spence was born on 12 August 1947. He attended Pinelands High School where he took part in rugby and athletics. He was a first-team flyhalf and at athletics he boasted with a time of 22.2 sec for the 220 yards when under-17. At university, where he studied building science, he was more interested in rugby and hockey. Dave joined Pinelands Athletic Club in 1961 and disappeared three years later. In 1978, at 130kg he returned to running and joined the Pinelands Plodders (the jogging section of Pinelands Athletics) which lead him into coaching. He was approached by Don Timm (Pinelands Head Coach) to assist with coaching in the club. He duly accepted, read up on coaching, did the exams and in 1983 became the Head Coach at Pinelands. He went on to qualify as a National Level 3 Coach.
Dave coached many athletes in sprints, race walking, middle distance and long distance (Two Oceans included, but not Comrades, which he called a ‘crazy race’). Among the names from the Dave Spence stable at that time were Johan Rossouw and Welcome Nyoka. In 1988 Rossouw set a new SA record over the 100m. Welcome was the first black athlete to represent Western Province, and in 1984 he won the WP Cross Country title. Sadly, Welcome was killed while out running six months later. This was a major blow to Dave. When Rossouw broke the SA 100m record, Dave was swamped with runners of all shapes and sizes wanting join his squad. Thus Pinelands Athletic Club grew in numbers. The lower oval on weekdays was a hive of activity with runners doing fartleks and going out on 10km training runs. Dave would group them into different modes of training. Dave had the ability to inspire and motivate his athletes; he would give advice and provide training programs. He also believed that cross country should be included in every coach’s training programme. This he felt was a great stamina builder.
Dave’s coaching philosophy was that cross country was the keystone to all the other disciplines. With this belief, in 1984, he set about getting his squad at Pinelands geared up for cross-country running. In 1987 he achieved his aim – Pinelands won both the men’s and ladies’ WP cross country titles from Stellenbosch University who dominated cross country for the past ten years. Pinelands thus became a force in WP cross country and went on the win the cross-country titles for the men in 1988, 89, 93, 95, 96 and 98. For the women it was in 1987, ’89, ’95, ’96, ’98 and 2000.
Dave had many stars in his squad over the years. There were too many to mention, but two names that need be mentioned are Makhasonke Fika and Nancy Will. Makhasonke Fika represented South Africa on the road, at cross country and on the track. There are not many who can boast about that. Nancy Will followed Dave’s training programmes and was champion in her age group for cross country and road running. Other WP champions coming from the Dave Spence stable were Nico Vermeulen, Gabriel Crisp, Peter Williams, Evelina Tshabalala, Rita Toto, Norma Nonkonyana and many others.
In 2002 Dave started up the Adidas Athletic Club and also became involved with the Old Mutual’s Two Ocean coaching programmes. At that time Pinelands Athletic Club was breaking away from the elite status to become a more social club. Dave recognised this and agreed with the observation that Pinelands no longer required a coach. Dave was, however, still available to give club members advice and training programmes.
In 2002 Dave was made a Life Member of the club for his 19 years of coaching. Sadly, Dave passed away on 7 January 2010.
Dave’s 1994 Champion Women’s Cross Country team
(Back) Kaare James (Western Province Official), Marianne Rossouw, Dave Spence, Norma Nonkonyana, Elisa Gianchino, (Front) Nancy Will, Evelina Tshabalala, Charmaine Cupido, Rita Toto.