Ex-Dutchmen Take Men’s, Women’s Crowns; Monroe-Woodbury Team Champ
BY JAMIE KEMPTON
The homecoming known as the Bill Markiewicz Memorial Rockland Alumni Cross Country Run re-enacted its 33rd annual encore at Bear Mountain on Nov. 28, uniting local harriers spanning more than six decades in an autumn ritual as timeless as the changing of the foliage and shortening of daylight hours.
After last year’s snow-induced course change disrupted the natural rhythms of the tradition-laden event, this year’s drizzly, relatively balmy mid-50s temperatures proved no hindrance whatsoever to the 206 runners who completed the 3-mile trek, which includes a bracing jaunt around Hessian Lake and a steep, mid-race ascent of the famed ski-jump hill.
The race, co-sponsored by the Rockland Road Runners, is named for the former Clarkstown North cross country and track coach (1978-89) who epitomized the sport’s all-for-one/one-for-all spirit. Markiewicz enthusiastically supported everyone who accepted the challenge of running over hill and dale in pursuit of a personal best and the contribution to a team effort.
A pair of Tappan Zee High School alumni conquered that challenge best on a day to revel in retracing the footpaths of their scholastic harrier days. Luke Gavigan, Tappan Zee class of 2015, took control of the race on the ski-slope hill and forged ahead to victory in 15 minutes 52 seconds. The triumph completed a difficult victory double for the ex-Dutchmen ace, after he captured the Turkey Trot 5-Mile at Rockland Lake on Thanksgiving Day. Only Carlos Jamieson, North Rockland class of 2005, had previously accomplished the feat.
Gavigan was a three-time New York State mile champion for the Flying Dutchmen, won Millrose Games and Penn Relays mile crowns, and ranks No. 2 on the all-time Rockland milers’ list at 4:07.82. Currently attending Rockland Community College, he is set to enroll at Penn State in the spring 2016 semester. Runner-up Jake Jibb, Monroe-Woodbury class of 2015, finished 50 yards back in 16:01 after going out hard and leading the first half of the race. Jibb was the 2015 state 3,000-meter steeplechase champion in 8:57.34, third-fastest ever by a New York schoolboy.
Cailé Kohlbrenner, a 2011 Tappan Zee alumna, rolled to her fifth consecutive women’s championship and placed 25th overall, clocking 18:49 to win by 250 yards. Kohlbrenner started clicking off Alumni Run titles the first year she was eligible and has not lost since. She graduated in 2015 from Providence College, a traditional cross country power, and now serves as Assistant Coach/Recruiting at Dominican College in Orangeburg. That coaching position was formerly held by her dad, Andy Kohlbrenner, Pearl River class of 1981, a four-time Alumni runner-up and 2008 Rockland Track & Field Hall of Fame inductee. Finishing second in the Alumni Run women’s division was Meaghan Ventarola, Monroe-Woodbury class of 2012, in 19:38. Ventarola was the one of the top two runners for the St. Thomas Aquinas College women’s team that qualified for, and competed in, the 2015 NCAA Division II national championships, a first in program history.
Monroe-Woodbury of Orange County swept the team titles. The Crusader men won their fifth crown, outdistancing runner-up and nine-time team champ Clarkstown North, 70 to 94. The Crusader women captured their record 12th team title with 36 points, followed by Pearl River with 50. Monroe-Woodbury also claimed team participation honors with 32 runners, ahead of runner-up Clarkstown South (22) and third-place Suffern (21).
Entrants’ ages ranged from 18 to 85. The oldest participant was Pete Beckerle, age 85, Spring Valley class of 1948, who finished the race in 57:22 for 204th place. He was one of seven Beckerle family members to complete the course, including eldest son Larry, Albertus Magnus class of 1973, who holds the distinction of being the only individual to have participated in all 33 editions of the race. Runner-up in the family participation category was the Newsome clan representing Clarkstown South – Dawn, Kim, Jennifer and George.