The irresistible pull of a special place, the renewal of old ties and hints of nostalgia brought runners of all stripes back to Bear Mountain State Park on Saturday, November 25 for the 40th anniversary Bill Markiewicz Memorial Rockland County Alumni Cross Country Run. Co-sponsored by the Rockland Road Runners, it is the only county-wide alumni athletic event in Rockland, accepting participants of post-high school age from any secondary school home or abroad.
The special place is Bear Mountain, a national historic landmark that welcomes the harrier brigade every year with beckoning invitations to ramble across the playing field past the majestic Inn, make a circuit (or two) around pristine Hessian Lake, continue the tour past the ice-skating rink and the Carousel, and conclude the jaunt with another bracing charge across the great lawn to the finish line.
What the runners did not encounter this year, for the first time ever, was “The Hill” – a steep, crater-strewn climb of the access path leading up to the old ski-jumping launch. A devastating storm in July inflicted major damage to Bear Mountain, including the collapse of pavement on the ski-jump trail, rendering it impassable and off limits to the public. The course was adjusted to eliminate the brutal hill – much to the delight of many entrants but to the chagrin of some die-hard traditionalists – and instead added a second loop around Hessian Lake before the customary finish past the rink, merry-go- round and basketball courts.
Meet directors Tom Doherty and Ralph Coleman ushered the 129 participants through their paces on a sunny but chilly upper-30s-degree day, assisted by minions Lou Hall, Jim Glover (Friday course set-up) and Pat Chambers, Albertus Magnus class of 1976, the inaugural Alumni Run champion. Corey Calajoe, Pearl River class of 2004, etched his name in the record books with his third consecutive victory. Among male participants, Art Gunther, Tappan Zee class of 1989, remains unsurpassed with seven championships. But Calajoe now shares second place with course record-holder and 1992 Olympian John Trautmann, Monroe- Woodbury class of 1985. Both have earned three titles. Calajoe navigated the new three-mile layout in 16 minutes 34 seconds for a 22-second victory over runner-up Adam Alshoubeki (16:56), Monroe-Woodbury class of 2016. Calajoe, who ran in the shadow of star teammate Brendan Fennell at Pearl River, has set his sights on a sub-2:40 clocking at the upcoming California International Marathon on December 3.
The female winner’s name will be familiar to Rockland track & cross country aficionados. Caile Kohlbrenner Martinez, Tappan Zee class of 2011, captured her sixth Alumni Run crown but first since 2015, which was the last of her five consecutive triumphs from 2011 to 2015. Caile clocked 19:50 for a 12-second margin over runner-up Suzanne La Burt, Monroe-Woodbury class of 1981. Caile, who now lives in Hawaii, stands second on the all-time victory list, two behind leader Julianne Littmann-Viscardo, Monroe-Woodbury class of 1995. Caile’s dad, Andy Kohlbrenner, Pearl River class of 1981, a standout runner for Pearl River and multi-time runner-up in the Alumni Run, cheered proudly for Caile from the sidelines. La Burt added to her illustrious resume of achievement, claiming her ninth runner-up fi nish to complement her three championships and four third-place efforts.
Clarkstown South annexed its third men’s team championship but first since 2000 with a winning score of 68 points, followed by Tappan Zee with 78. The South Vikings alumni were spearheaded by sixth-place finisher Adam Klein (17:26), class of 2014, a former Dominican College (now Dominican University) runner and current coach at Nyack High School.
For the first time in the race’s history, Tappan Zee secured the women’s team title, scoring 55 points for a decisive vic- tory over runner-up Monroe-Woodbury, which tallied 110. Grace Reynolds, class of 2022, paced the Dutchies’ alumnae with a sixth-place finish in 21:07. Tappan Zee coach Pat Driscoll, Clarkstown North class of 1998, who enjoyed a top-20 showing himself (19th , 18:59), exhibited pride in the victories of both the Tappan Zee alumnae and the current crop of TZ scholastic harriers, who captured the school’s first girls’ County team championship since 1977, last month at Bear Mountain.
The Crusaders of Monroe-Woodbury cruised to their 13th straight participation title, which combines men and women entrants, and 20 th title overall with 17 participants. Suffern finished second with 13, followed by Pearl River and Tappan Zee with 12 apiece.
The race is named in memory of Bill Markiewicz, Albertus Magnus class of 1967, the universally beloved former Clarkstown North coach (1978-1989) who succumbed to cancer in 1991. After his passing, the Bill Markiewicz Award was conceived to honor longtime, dedicated contributors to
Rockland cross country. The award, bestowed each year at the Alumni Run, was presented this year to Janet Markiewicz, Bill’s widow, who has attended each year since the award was instituted in the early 1990s, with the inaugural award going posthumously to her husband.
“Now I have a plaque to hang next to Bill’s,” said Janet, who lives in Warwick and was joined at the race by many Markiewicz family members, including Bill’s brothers Mike and Tom, as well as Bill and Janet’s sons Luke and Dan. Dan Markiewicz, Goshen class of 1996, completed the race in a creditable 29th place in 20:32.
A moment of silence was observed before the race for Pete Beckerle, Spring Valley class of 1948, who died suddenly at home, at age 93, on the eve of the race. He was a track and cross country runner at Spring Valley who participated in the Alumni event several times over the years and was a frequent, enthusiastic spectator and supporter. Pete Beckerle was a proud Korean War veteran and well-respected local business owner as head of Beckerle Lumber Supply Co., which was founded by his father, Laurence, in 1940 and still operates four locations in Rockland. Pete’s four sons –Larry, Stephen, Michael and Matt– joined to complete the Alumni route together, walking or running, in a show of solidarity in memory of their dad.
Larry Beckerle, Albertus Magnus class of 1973, finished the race for the 40th time, more than any other Alumni Run participant. Larry and his brothers were joined in the race by Matt’s daughter Kate and wife Laura. Other families well represented in the race were the Collins family of Mike, Helene, Kyle, Wesley and Dustin, and the Pinto family of Dianne, Cassandra, Faith and Darrel. Kyle Collins, Suffern class of 2012, won the race in 2014 and fared well this year, placing 17 th in 18:37.
In all, 90 men and 39 women took part in the event, representing 42 schools from nine states – New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Maryland, Georgia, Texas and California – as well as one international participant from Great Britain, Bill Carpenter, the president of the sponsoring Rockland Road Runners.
Warren Berbit, Bayside class of 1960, was once again the oldest participant.