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Sean’s Run running strong 10 years later
By John Mason
Originally Published in the
Register Star:
Wednesday, May 4, 2011 10:59 AM EDT

CHATHAM — In the last decade, the number of persons injured or killed in drinking-and-driving accidents in Columbia County has been reduced by 50 percent, Carol Gould, vice chairwoman of Sean’s Run, said Sunday prior to Sean’s Run.

“Almost every place else in New York has risen by as much as we’ve declined,” she said. “We’re doing something right.”

The first Sean’s Run was conducted in April 2002, four months after Chatham High School junior and dedicated runner Sean French died in a New Year’s Eve crash in which alcohol and unbuckled seat belts played their parts. So it’s no accident that the race comes shortly before prom and graduation.

This year, more than 1,300 people registered, a little bit less than last year’s 1,462, despite what Mark French, Sean’s dad and the secretary of the organizing committee, called “the best weather we’ve ever had.”

It was an event-packed weekend, starting with Saturday’s Sea Jem’s Run for kids with special needs. French said 18 special needs persons, from 5 to 24, ran 100 yards, with each of them getting a medal.

Battle of the Belts
The first event Sunday was the Battle of the Belts, in which teams of four compete to see which team can have all members buckle themselves in to each of four seats in the shortest time.

All groups interviewed said the hardest part was the seat belt getting stuck when you’re trying to pull it out.

“The seat belts lock when you’re trying to do them fast,” said Pine Plains junior Bryant Rosato.

“Once you release it and run around, it gets tangled up for the next person,” said a senior from Mohanesen High. “We had to practice that the most.”

Overall winners were Raw Dogs from Pine Plains, clocking in at 36.68 for the high school division and Lynch Lightning from Amsterdam with a time of 41.50 for the junior high school division. The Chatham team N/A-Never Abuse won Loudest Cheering Section for the junior high school division.

Meghan’s Mile
Following the Battle of the Belts came Meghan’s Mile, which is run in memory of Meghan Kraham, who at 16, was a founding member of the Sean’s Run Organizing Committee and who died of cancer in 2007 at the age of 21.

The one-mile race is for boys and girls 12 and under. Erin Clark of Old Chatham was the winning girl at 6:33. Chase Werner of Stuyvesant was the runaway winner for boys with a time of 5:51.

“It was easy,” the 12 year old said. “This is my fourth year in Sean’s Run.” He also runs the 800-meter and 1500-meter races on Ichabod Crane’s modified track team and plays soccer, baseball and basketball.

Eight-year-old Betty Gibbs of Rhinebeck said, “It was really, really hot,” as she cooled off with some water.

Twins Lana and Archie Messinger of Spencertown, both 6-1/2, both ran the race. “It was easy,” Archie said. They kept themselves cool with water. “They gave us cups, we threw it on our heads.”

Both twins were aware of what Sean’s Run is all about.

“He died,” Lana said.

“Car crash,” said Archie.

“Never drink alcohol in the car,” said Lana.

“Never take your seat belt off,” said Archie.

5K Run/Walk
Hot on the heels of Meghan’s Mile was the 5K Run/Community Walk.

Tony Avenia of Chatham was running it for the first time.

“I’m a fitness buff, but not a runner,” he said. His daughter, Meghan, 13, was running it for the second time and his son, Nicholas, 11, ran in Meghan’s Mile.

“It’s such a good event,” Avenia said. “It’s a great reason to be living in this area.”

Hundreds of people then filled the large starting area.

Chuck Terry of Albany won for the second year in a row, coming in with no one at his heels at 16:11.

“I was a little bit slower this year,” he said. “It was a little hotter. Last year, it was overcast with a little rain. It was easier, your body stays cool all the time.”

The champion said he’s not a big fan of the course.

“It goes up and down,” he said. “I like the third part, through the town, but the first and second miles are hilly.”

Terry coaches at Hudson Valley Community College and brought five or six of his runners with him. Two of them, Eric Young and Dave Degon, placed third and fourth, respectively, so Hudson Valley accounted for three of the top four finishers.

Betsy Edinger of Greenwich was the top woman finisher, with a time of 19:45.

Kathy Case of Albany, who came in at 26:50, called it “an awesome run, a little hot.” She recently moved here from Central New York and was “very impressed” with the race. She, her husband and her son all ran.

Chatham High graduate Greg Linton came up from Brooklyn to run in Sean’s Run for the first time. He finished 66th with a time of 21:49. “I liked the course,” he said. “A lot of hills — makes it more challenging.” He said the only thing he didn’t like was the double-back on Pond Hill.

CHS track team hurdler Gabe Franck, who ran the course in 24 minutes, called Pond Hill “heartbreak hill.”

“I started out ahead, but died off on the hill,” he said. But he said it’s a good course. His mother, artist Mary Ann Davis, also competed, coming in at 32:22. She said Gabe had to sign a four-page document to attend the prom saying that he wouldn’t drink or drive with anyone who had been drinking.

“I’ve got to hand it to the French family,” she said. “This has taken on a life of its own.”

Coming in 55th out of 771 competitors, with a time of 21:05, was Robert Sansaricq. Sansaricq, who is autistic, ran Sean’s Run as his first competitive race a year ago, coming in at 25:37. He ran a number of races over last summer and continued training with his father, Ralph, throughout the winter.

Ralph was hoping his son would break 20 minutes, but he settled for coming in 4.5 minutes ahead of 2010.

“He was very brave,” Ralph Sansaricq said. “He competed. You’re competing against high school and college kids — he was holding his own.”

Awards, Grants, Speeches
Prior to the races, there were some awards and grants handed out in the high school auditorium.

The Outstanding Cross-Country runner went to Edinger and to Kevin Terbush of Burnt Hills High, Saratoga County.

The Columbia County Love of Running Awards went to Cailey Nieto of Chatham High and Max Ocean of Hawthorne Valley High.

The Chatham High Respect for All Awards went to Mylessa Sweet and Ryan Behrens.

Chatham Mayor Tom Curran said he was “impressed by this organization and the job they do educating youth about substance abuse.”

Chatham Central School District Superintendent Cheryl Nuciforo said, “The whole community is coming together to give a strong message to young people.”

Roger Coleman, publisher of Hudson-Catskill Newspapers, called Sean’s Run “one of the finest community events I’ve seen in 35 years of publishing” and predicted it would be around for years to come.

David Cutler is the first vice-president of First Niagara Bank, which has been the presenting sponsor for the past six years.

“I can’t tell you how proud I am,” he said. “It’s a great cause and we hope to be a presenting sponsor for years to come.”

With that, he handed Chairman Jeff French a check made out to Sean’s Run for $10,000.

Finally, $500 grants were presented to Students Against Drunk Driving chapters and similar groups at Averill Park, Berlin, Chatham high and middle schools, Mohanesen, Pine Plains/Stissing Mountain, Hoosick Falls, Hudson City Youth Department, the Peer Leadership Club in Lynch, Schodack/Castleton, Remove Intoxicated Drivers in Schenectady, Choices 301 in Albany and the Marathon Project in Dutchess County.

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