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1,375 run in 11th annual Sean’s Run, Meghan’s Mile
May 2, 2012

By Trevor Alford
Origianly Published by The Register Star:

Wednesday, May 2, 2012 11:30 AM EDT
CHATHAM — The 11th annual Sean’s Run drew a huge crowd Sunday. The event included Meghan’s Mile and the World Championship Battle of the Belts. And apart from the powerful winds that blew all afternoon, liberating many balloons, it was a great day for a race with the sun shining.

This year, Sean’s Run drew 1,375 runners — more than last year. The total didn’t break any records, but 327 of the participants registered for the event that very morning.

The annual event raises awareness about vehicle safety, specifically the use of seat belts and the dangers of underage drinking and driving.

“I think it’s a terrific effort for the community to get out an important message to our young people and I’m glad it’s lasted a long time because the message needs to be repeated,” said Chatham Central School District Superintendent Cheryl Nuciforo.

“It’s a challenge to get a message to stick with any group of teenagers,” she said. “Teenagers never think they’re vulnerable, but I think this event is fun and it’s got a lot of positive energy so hopefully that helps them to hear the message behind it.”

The first Sean’s Run was held after Chatham High School junior Sean French was killed in a car accident where the driver was drunk. Since then, Mark French, Sean’s father, has been involved in the annual tribute to Sean, who was an avid runner. Despite being reminded each year that Sean is no longer here, French said he doesn’t feel sad at Sean’s Run.

“There’s so much support from the community, the sponsors and the participants,” he said. “They make this a joy to be involved in. It’s bittersweet, but it’s a joy.”

The event has added to its list of activities over the years. French said he doesn’t know what the next new event will be.

“We have a year to figure that out,” he said.

Heather Caruso, who traveled the farthest, came to honor Sean. In fact, she received an award for traveling the longest distance to be at the event, flying from Zephyrhills, Florida. When she lived in the area, she used to babysit Sean. This is the first time she has been able to attend Sean’s Run in 10 years.

Caruso said her last memory of Sean is of the two of them riding bikes. They were riding along, when they came up to a big hill. Caruso was tired, so she stopped and told Sean that she didn’t think she could make it up the hill. Sean’s response sticks with her to this day.

“I don’t understand, just pedal,” he said.

“I think, ‘kid if you only knew how much you taught me,’” Caruso said after the race.

Racers were led by 11 members of the Red Knights, a motorcycle club made up of firefighters.

“You are not allowed to catch up and jump on,” master of ceremonies Dave Oja joked at the start of the race.

This year, the overall winner was Chuck Terry from Albany, who finished with the fastest time for the third year in a row, finishing in 16 minutes and 8 seconds.

“It’s a tough course,” he said. “You go down a big downhill on the first mile, then you have to turn around and come right back up it. It’s just kind of a tough second mile.”

Terry has been running for the past 12 years and is currently the head coach for men and women’s cross country at Hudson Valley Community College.

The first female to cross the finish line was Brina Seguine from Rensselaer, who ran the course in 19:11. She ran with Columbia High School for six years and ran at Siena College for four years.

Seguine liked the course, but said that the wind gave her some trouble, especially in the home stretch. She still holds the record for females in the 16 to 18 category with a time of 18:18.

Before the main race, children 12 and younger took part in Meghan’s Mile, a race in honor of Meghan Kraham, who was a friend of Sean’s and helped create Sean’s Run. Kraham succumbed to a rare form of cancer in August 2007.

The winner of Meghan’s Mile was 12-year-old Noah Summers of Chatham, who finished in 6:39. The first female runner was right on his tail; Samantha Taylor, 12, of Philmont, finished in 6:41 and won second place overall.

Many families ran Meghan’s Mile together.

“We come every year, it’s a good event for a good cause and it’s fun,” said Cybll Howard, who ran with her husband, Dr. Neil Howard, and their three children, 11-year-old Grace, 8-year-old Clair and 6-year-old Neil Jr. The family was also there to support the Battle of the Belts competitors from Taconic Hills. Neil Sr. is the principal for at the Taconic Hills Middle School.

Another family who ran together, Pat Hanley, Kristin Scheible and their three children — 11-year-old Aidan, 5-year-old Elias and 2-year-old Jasper — experienced some competition within the family. Elias was hot on the tails of his older sister near the finish of the race, but couldn’t quite catch up to her.

“I almost beat her, but she got to the finish line first,” he said Elias.

The World Championship Battle of the Belts, where competitors race to see who can buckle up in all four seats of a minivan the fastest, kicked of Sean’s Run. Before the students could compete, however, an ongoing feud between the Chatham Police Department and the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office had to be settled. The two departments were tied with three wins each from previous championships, but after Sunday, the Chatham Police Department had pulled ahead with the win.

The high school winner of the Battle of the Belts was the team C2+K2: Katie Wishiewski, Cassey Egelston, Kimberly Genit and Carly Littlejohn from Fonda-Fulton High School.

The award for the loudest cheering section went to the Flying Panthers from Marathon Project in Fishkill: Terry Selby, Oswaldo, Cartlin Lopez and Rachel Langlitz.

The award for the best T-shirt went to Cross Your Hearts from Averill Park High School: Sarah Nuss, Emily Coonradt, Emily Coutin and Matt Miller.

The junior high school winner of the Battle of the Belts was the Amsterdam Running Rams from Lynch Student Council: Taylor Flint, Michaela Kelly, Gianna De Rosa and Giuliana Pritchard.

The award for loudest cheering section went to the Beacon Bacon team from the Marathon Project: Mickey Roberta, Michael “Bud” Rutkoske, Paige Baisley and Rachael Ng.

The award for best T-shirt went to Click it or Ticket team from Goff Middle School: Dario Aymet, Ryan Sousis, Cody Polinsky and Shane Goehler.

Grants were awarded to each of the schools who competed in the World Championship Battle of the Belts to fund their trip and their private Battle of the Belts competitions.

The third annual Sea Jem’s Super Saturday Run for Special Needs Kids the day before brought out 19 physically disabled athletes who participated in a 100-yard race.

Three years ago, Burke Adams, founder of the Albany Miracle League, reached out to the Sean’s Run Organizing Committee and asked if “his kids” could experience running under the Sean’s Run finish line banner.

“The [Sean’s Run] Organizing Committee immediately said yes and the event became part of what is now a weekend of activity,” said French.

While Bobby Aiello finished the race first, all 19 athletes were awarded a medal and considered winners.

French said that the biggest part of the Sean’s Run weekend is the involvement of all the volunteers.

“They are the event. The volunteer committee, the organizing committee that works all year and then all the volunteers that show up on this day to help.”

He estimated that this year Sean’s Run had 75 volunteers working together.

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