Harriers Rally for One of Their Own at Alumni Cross Country Run


The race's winner, Carlos Jamieson, and runner-up Louis Tafuto as they prepare to ascend the ski-jump hill at Bear Mountain midway through the race
The race’s winner, Carlos Jamieson, and runner-up Louis Tafuto as they prepare to ascend the ski-jump hill at Bear Mountain midway through the race

As seasons go, late autumn is not a traditional time of renewal. But for participants in the Bill Markiewicz Memorial Rockland Alumni Cross Country Run, the last Saturday in November is a time to renew old friendships, retrace the footpaths of their youth, and remember what it was like to tackle the imposing ski-jump hill at Bear Mountain.

Some 200 runners and just as many spectators assembled on Nov. 30 at the historic state park for the 31st edition of the Markiewicz run, co-sponsored by the Rockland Road Runners and named for the former Clarkstown North cross country and track coach (1978-89) who touted the virtues of running with a nearly evangelical fervor. Markiewicz died of cancer in 1991, but his spirit lives on in the festive Alumni Run gathering and in the lives he touched as a coach and mentor.

One of his former athletes, Mike Rogan – A 1986 North alumnus and a Rockland Track & Field Hall of Famer – went on to a record-setting career at Notre Dame and professional success as an emergency room physician and medical researcher. However, tragedy struck this past summer when Rogan fell down two flights of stairs at his home in Indiana and suffered a traumatic brain injury along with severe facial and skull fractures. He has made progress but faces a rigorous rehab program. After the accident he lost his job and it’s unclear whether he will ever be able to work again in his chosen medical field. He had gotten engaged just weeks before the accident and has a 12-year-old son from a previous marriage.

As part of an effort to assist with his mounting medical and other expenses, Rogan’s former teammates collected donations totaling more than $1,000 at the Alumni Run. The generosity of the local running community gratified the donation’s organizers, who plan a series of fund-raising events on behalf of Rogan.

“If the roles were reversed, and I was in Michael’s shoes, I have no doubt that he would be there for me in my time of need,” said Mike Coakley, a 1987 Clarkstown North graduate and coordinator of the donation effort. “If you were to ask anybody who has had the pleasure of knowing Mike over the years, I am certain they would all say that they could count on Mike for help. He and Coach Markiewicz had a very special relationship, and I am certain Coach ‘Mark’ would like to help Mike in any way possible.”

Rogan competed in the Alumni Run many times, placing as high as second in 1988. The Rams of Clarkstown North have been perennial contenders at the race, having won the men’s team championship eight times, tied for the most in meet history with Albertus Magnus. This year Clarkstown North posted a score of 78 points to finish a close second to Monroe-Woodbury, which repeated as men’s champion with 71 points. The Crusaders from Orange County swept the team honors, claiming their seventh women’s title in nine years and 10th overall with a low score of 48 points, and capturing their 12th team participation crown with 44 entrants.

Runners representing 45 high schools from 11 states – including California, Arizona, Minnesota and South Carolina – took part in the race, and participants’ ages ranged from 18 to 71.

Carlos Jamieson, a 2005 North Rockland alumnus, repeated as overall champion. On a sunny but chilly day with temperatures barely rising above freezing, Jamieson navigated the hilly three-mile course in 15 minutes, 55 seconds for a 40-yard victory over runner-up Louis Tafuto, Warwick class of 2006, who clocked 16:03. Jamieson was the 2003 Rockland scholastic County Meet champion and later starred at American University. He was one of seven runners chosen to the Rockland All-Decade Cross Country team for 2000-2009.

Cailé Kohlbrenner, a 2011 Tappan Zee alumna, sped to her third straight Alumni Run championship. Her winning of time of 18:46 was more than two minutes faster than second-place Suzanne LaBurt, Monroe-Woodbury class of 1981. Kohlbrenner is a junior at Providence College and member of the Friars’ women’s cross country team, which won the NCAA Div. I championship on Nov. 23.

The Alumni Run was renamed in memory of Markiewicz in 1991 and an annual award was established to recognize those who have made a significant contribution to the sport. This year’s Bill Markiewicz Award honoree was George Hoy, Spring Valley class of 1969. Hoy ran track and cross country at Spring Valley and has frequently competed in the Alumni Run, including the inaugural year, 1983. He was a fixture on the Rockland track scene for more than 20 years, assisting in various capacities.

Eight members of the Markiewicz extended family participated in the run, and other family members were on hand to support them and the event, including Janet Markiewicz, Bill’s widow.

Past Alumni Run champions fared well again this year. John Trautmann, Monroe-Woodbury class of 1986, is a three-time meet winner and course record-holder at 14:08. He finished third in 16:27. Brian Crowley, Albertus Magnus class of 1982, who won the race in 1990, took fifth in 17:00.

Besides Jamieson, other former Rockland County meet champions who participated included a pair of Nanuet alumni – Jim Dinan, class of 1987, and Erin Haugh Colleran, class of 1997, who placed fifth in the women’s division. Rockland County Track & Field Hall of Fame inductees who competed included Eileen Shiel Herman, Clarkstown South class of 1981, and Dave McGovern, Clarkstown North class of 1983.

Larry Beckerle, Albertus Magnus class of 1973, kept alive his streak of never having missed an Alumni Run. Pat Chambers, Albertus Magnus class of 1976 and the inaugural Alumni Run champion, had his streak snapped at 30.