Unfazed by Snow, Alumni Runners Adapt at Bear Mountain

BY JAMIE KEMPTON

The start of the race, in front of the Carousel building
The start of the race, in front of the Carousel building

Never in the 31-year history of the Bill Markiewicz Memorial Rockland Alumni Cross Country Run had the classic Bear Mountain course needed to be changed to accommodate weather conditions. But when a midweek blanket of snow and residual ice rendered most of the Hessian Lake path and the steep ski-jump hill unusable for the Nov. 29 event, meet official Ralph Coleman was forced to improvise. He fashioned a makeshift layout that hewed to the cleared paved walkways spanning from the Carousel, across the snow-laden playfield to the Inn and down the path leading to the site of the annual Oktoberfest.

Thanks to Coleman’s impromptu route reshuffling, the 172 running revelers who took part in this 32nd annual edition were able to celebrate their own “November-fest” over an estimated 2.25-mile course that preserved at least some of the flavor of the traditional 3-mile sojourn, a late-autumn staple for alumni harriers for three decades.

 Overall winner Kyle Collins at the finish
Overall winner Kyle Collins at the finish

The race, co-sponsored by the Rockland Road Runners, is named for the former Clarkstown North cross country and track coach (1978-89) who would have embraced the snowy conditions with his trademark can-do spirit and deemed it a worthy challenge to be tackled and overcome. On an overcast, chilly 35-degree day, the challenge was accepted and conquered by Kyle Collins and Cailé Kohlbrenner, a pair of college students with family running pedigrees who swept to victory on the flat provisional course.

Collins, a 2012 Suffern High School graduate and junior at SUNY Fredonia, took the lead immediately and held off course-record-holder John Trautmann to win by 50 yards in 11 minutes 49 seconds, a “course record” that may stand forever as a one-time anomaly from the standard configuration. Collins’ dad, Michael, was an accomplished runner for Mepham High School on Long Island and Fredonia State who participates in the Alumni Run every year and has a third-place finish to his credit, in the 1987 race.

Women's winner Caile Kohlbrenner at the finish
Women’s winner Caile Kohlbrenner at the finish

Trautmann, Monroe-Woodbury class of 1986, wound up finishing second in 12:00. A 1992 Olympian at 5,000 meters, Trautmann is a three-time Alumni Run champion who set the existing three-mile course record of a blistering 14:08 in 1994. Trautmann recently ran a 4:17 mile at age 46 and is one of the top masters (40 or older) runners in the country. Nick Roosa, Tappan Zee class of 2003, a two-time Alumni Run titlist, returned from an 18-month leg injury to claim third place in 12:04.

Kohlbrenner, a 2011 Tappan Zee alumna and senior at Providence College, captured her fourth successive women’s title in convincing style and placed 19th overall. She clocked 12:59 for a 150-yard victory margin over runner-up Julianne Littmann-Viscardo, Monroe-Woodbury class of 1995, who ran 13:28. Littmann-Viscardo, a former Clemson standout, has won the Alumni Run women’s division a record eight times. Kohlbrenner was a top-10 member of Providence’s cross country team, which finished 13th at the recent NCAA Division I national championships. She is the daughter of Andy Kohlbrenner, Pearl River class of 1981, a four-time Alumni runner-up and 2008 Rockland Track & Field Hall of Fame inductee.

The Clarkstown North men’s alumni edged Pearl River, 84 to 87, to notch their ninth team championship and break a tie with Albertus Magnus for most men’s titles in meet history. Monroe-Woodbury of Orange County extended its records in the women’s division and team participation categories, posting its 11th women’s crown with a score of 26 points and securing team participation honors for the 14th time, with 23 participants. Runners representing 50 high schools from 13 states – including California, Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota – took part in the race, and entrants’ ages ranged from 18 to 72.

The Alumni Run was renamed in memory of Markiewicz in 1991 and a yearly award was founded to recognize those who have rendered distinguished service to the sport. This year’s Bill Markiewicz Award recipient was Howard Arciniegas, the head athletic trainer at Spring Valley High School, who has served as the on-site athletic trainer and health professional at the Alumni Run for more than 10 years. The award was presented to Arciniegas by Janet Markiewicz, Bill’s widow, who was joined at the event by several Markiewicz family members, including five who participated in the run.

Aside from Trautmann, Littmann-Viscardo and Roosa, another past Alumni Run champion, Brian Crowley, fared admirably. Crowley, Albertus Magnus class of 1982, who won the race back in 1990, placed seventh in 12:16. Not bad for a 50-year-old!

Former Rockland County scholastic meet champions who participated included a pair of three-time winners from Pearl River, Brendan Fennell ’03 and Mike Hickey ’09; Mike Colangelo, Albertus Magnus class of 1975; Jim Dinan, Nanuet class of 1987; and Pete Modafferi, Clarkstown South class of 1995. Fennell was a two-time New York state champion and was voted Male Runner of the Decade for Rockland from 2000-2009. Colangelo, who also was a state individual titleholder, was joined at the race by several fellow members of the Albertus Magnus 1974 squad, which was celebrating the 40th anniversary of its undefeated, New York state and Eastern States championship club.

Larry Beckerle, Albertus Magnus class of 1973, completed the course for the 32nd consecutive time, the only individual never to have missed an Alumni Run.