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Sean’s Run draws record number of runners

By Nathan Mayberg
Hudson-Catskill Newspapers
Originally posted on
April 29, 2013 by Nathan Mayberg

CHATHAM - Sean French wasn’t just a good runner, he was a great runner. He was one of the best the area has seen, said those who knew him. He set track records at Chatham High School that still stand.

On Sunday, more than 1,400 runners and walkers lined the streets of Chatham to take part in the 3.1 mile, 5K event in Sean’s name. Children as young as six years old and seniors as old as 84 ran the course. Babies not old enough to run or walk were pushed along by their mothers.

French was killed in a car accident on New Year’s Day in 2002 after a drunk driver crashed a car that he was a passenger in. French was 17 and a junior at Chatham High School. Another passenger, Ian Moore, who was 17 at the time, was paralyzed.
Every year since, Sean’s Run has attracted those who want to remember the boy they said was so fast, so talented, so nice and with so much potential.

His father, Mark, got Sean into running. At the age of 10, he competed in a national marathon. On Sunday, Mark was beaming while watching more than 1,400 people take part in the race. More than 200 others participated in events the day before, breaking last year’s record number. “It’s a great community event,” French said. “Its a reminder to our community of keeping our kids safe.”

He became emotional when asked to recall his son. “Sean was a runner,” French said. “He was a community volunteer.” Sean shared his dad’s passion for running. His father began taking Sean to road races from the age of five. “This was his element. He loved this,” said the father while standing near the finish line while a couple hundred people waited for the finishers.

In a fitting tribute, Sean’s cousin Matthew Forys won the race. Forys led every step of the way from the moment the throng of 1,400 charged up the hill and through the moment he drew off past the finish line 15 minutes and 18 seconds after he started and more than a full minute and a half ahead of the next runner. Adam Schenzfeier of Watervliet ran second in 16:55.

Forys, who runs for the New York Athletic Club and ran in the Olympic Trials Marathon, came up from Manhattan to take part. A past winner of the race, Forys called his late cousin “such a positive role model.”

“He was a much better runner than I was when we were in high school... he was the kind of guy that everybody liked. I think about him everyday.”

Forys said the annual race has brought the family closer together. “It hit our family very hard,” Forys said.

He hopes the event will draw young people’s attention to the dangers of drinking and driving. “Awareness is so key,” Forys said.

Dave Vona, 30, of the Kinderhook Runners Club and a math teacher at Ichabod Crane High School, finished third on Sunday. He remembers running against French while a student at Ichabod Crane. “He was one of the best runners this area has ever seen,” Vona said. Indeed, French finished eighth in the state championship his junior year before his untimely death.

“He was such a great kid,” Vona said. Vona, who ran in the first memorial race for Sean, said “it’s a great tribute to him.”

Madison Jones, 6, came from Palenville with her mother Christijo, to race together. “We’re just having fun together,” said the mother.

Jayden Rundell walked the 3 miles while pushing her 19-month daughter Amelia and two-year-old daughter Payton. Her husband Jeremy’s family owns Browns in Chatham.

Browns owner Judy Rundell said that Sean used to work at her store. “It’s an emotional day for all of us at Browns,” Rundell said. The annual race is “very special to me,” said Rundell. “He was a great kid. An all around great kid.”

Chelsea Benson, the Hudson High School track coach, was the top female finisher. “It’s for a really good cause,” she said. “It seems like it grows every year.”

Hudson High School Principal Antonio Abitabile said this was his fourth year running in the event. He said it is an important time of the year to remind students of the dangers of drinking and driving, as prom approaches. “I don’t think we will ever get to a point where we can do too much,” Abitabile said.

The race also brought a new star in nine-year-old Robert Bruneau of Chatham, who ran the race in 24:27, finishing 130th and beating out hundreds of other runners. This was his first time running in a 5K race. He is well trained by his uncle Mike McHugh — an experienced runner who traveled from Boston for the event. “It was exciting to do it,” Bruno said. “When you first got to the one mile point it started tiring you out. But people started throwing water at you,” and he was rejuvenated.






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