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Thanksgiving Turkey Trot races benefit Hauppauge-based nonprofit Christmas Magic

By Bill Landon

Thanks to Mount Sinai community members displaced children are once again getting what’s on their Christmas lists this year.

The school district’s Students Against Destructive Decisions club members teamed up with Strong Island Running Club and more than 36 local businesses and families for the 7th annual Mount Sinai Turkey Trot 5K and Fun Run to benefit Hauppauge-based nonprofit Christmas Magic.

According to running club founder John McHugh, the organization receives letters from children who write to Santa from area homeless shelters.

“Many were originally displaced back in 2008 as a result of the housing market crash,” McHugh said. “We get those letters, and with the proceeds of today’s race, we’ll go shopping next week and buy presents for the kids and host a dinner for them and their families.”

The races brought out more than 350 entrants, and Mount Sinai student-athletes swept the top five 5K spots. First across the finish line was Mount Sinai junior Sean Higgins, who is a member of the school’s varsity track and field and cross country teams. He clocked in at a personal best 17 minutes, 26:31.

“I practice at 7 a.m. every day,” the 17-year-old said. “I run for a living.”

Second across the finish line was teammate Ryan Wilson, who tripped the timer at 17:55.88. Mount Sinai runner Jackson Law finished in third with a time of 18:23.38, and was followed by his twin brother Christian who covered the distance in 18:24.97.

The first female finisher was Mount Sinai senior Noreen Guilfoyle, who finished in 18:35. It was her third consecutive first-place finish among females in the event.

“It’s a beautiful morning,” she said.

The event had the best turnout of any year so far, with event proceeds totaling just over $7,500, according to McHugh. After dinner, which will be held at Mount Sinai High School Dec. 6 at 5 p.m., there will be a visit from Santa where the kids will receive their gifts and sing Christmas carols.

“These people all have hearts of gold,” McHugh said. “It is our privilege to help make the holidays special for those children and families in need across Long Island.”

For more information about the collaboration, visit www.strongislandrunningclub.com or call 631-806-4649.

By Desirée Keegan

Runners gathered to honor a local leader and mentor, while raising funds in support of Miller Place athletics.

The 21st annual Joe Keany 5K and 1-mile runs commenced June 3, with North Shore runners grabbing first-place finishes while paying homage to a former Miller Place track runner.

“Joe Keany would go and mow the lawn and go around the neighborhood looking to do chores and do you know what he did with the money? He rode his bike down to the Smith Haven Mall and donated it to the Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon,” said Jackie Rose, the event’s organizer and emcee. The telethon raised money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. “We’re running for good character, we’re running for acts of kindness.”

Rose added that when Keany was in college, he and a friend rode their bikes from Cortland to California and back, donating the money made in support of his endeavor to charity.

“In his honor, the track team and the school decided to start this race,” Rose said. She said Keany was a captain of Miller Place’s track team, and garnered a myriad of accolades.

Over 400 runners registered for the races, and the money raised will benefit the Miller Place Athletic Booster Club, which funds the senior awards dinner and four scholarships.

Last year, the event raised around $7,500, according to booster club president Steve Liantonio. This year, Rose said, the booster club has far surpassed that, raising close to $10,000.

“We couldn’t do it without the local businesses who get involved and support us,” the six-year president said.

Rocky Point resident Scarlett Stevenson, who ran with her dad Brett, was the winner of the 1-mile run.

“I really love racing, and since I’m doing it with my dad, it’s a really fun experience,” the 11-year-old said. “I love running. I always run at school.”

First across the 5K finish line was Wading River’s Keith Steinbrecher, who finished in 17 minutes, 16.65 seconds.

The Shoreham-Wading River graduate also competed in 2009 and 2010, and is a currently a senior at Merrimack College. He said he enjoys the course — especially the hill on Cedar Drive — and the Miller Place atmosphere.

“It’s a good crowd,” he said. “I enjoy coming out to support the local community.”

Shoreham’s Connor McAlary, a senior on the cross-country team at Quinnipiac University, said he trains daily, and looks forward to the event. He finished right behind Steinbrecher in 17:16.67.

Senior Brendon Murphy and freshman Danelle Rose were the male and female recipients of the Joe Keany Cup, given to the Miller Place student or alumni that finishes first.

“We have repeat runners young and old,” Rose said. “It’s nice to see.”

Rose was also the first female to cross the finish line last year, and subsequently, was the Joe Keany Cup winner then too. The two are current varsity track and field and cross-country athletes.

“It’s our mission to instill that charitable kindness into the students of Miller Place and surrounding areas,” Rose said. “We hope they go out and follow in the footsteps of Joe Keany.”

Bill Landon contributed reporting

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Vanessa Rodriguez races across the St. Anthony's Invitational 5K-course at Sunken Meadow State Park. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Karina Allen will be racing her way to the state qualifiers.

The Comsewogue sophomore hit the road with her team for the St. Anthony’s Invitational at Sunken Meadow State Park Sept. 30, and despite the constant drizzle and 35 mph gusts of wind that would make it hard for any athlete, the Warriors’ cross country standout finished the 5K event just 14 seconds shy of her personal best.

Karina Allen, who finished the St. Anthony's Invitational 5K race in 13th place out of 190 runners, will be competing in the state qualifier this November. Photo by Bill Landon
Karina Allen, who finished the St. Anthony’s Invitational 5K race in 13th place out of 190 runners, will compete in the state qualifier this November. Photo by Bill Landon

Scores of runners answered the gun in a mass start for the 5K-event on the Cardiac Hill course, facing unrelenting wind as the rain came down sideways, making for slippery conditions. Allen crossed the finish line in 21 minutes, 11.46 , which placed her 13th out of 190 runners.

“Just going up Cardiac [Hill] — that’s just really the worst part, but going down Snake is easier — you just have to let yourself go,” Allen said. “I struggled at the bottom of Cardiac, and going up I was just sore in my legs and in my forearms, but going down the rest of the hill I was ok.”

Comsewogue head coach Charlotte Johnson said Allen has tremendous potential, and will set the tone for the team for the remainder of the season.

“Today was Karina’s personal best on this course, and she has already run under the time required for entry into the state qualification meet,” Johnson said. Allen will be competing at the qualifier for the first time this November.

Second across the line for the Warriors was classmate Mya Darsan, who placed 95th with a time of 24:38.14. Darsan said despite the wind and rain, she liked the conditions.

“It’s a bit windy; it’s a bit cold, but it feels nice when you’re running because it’s not as hot,” she said. “The wind does hold you up, but when it’s at your back, it gives you a nice push.”

Darsan did agree that the hardest part of the course was Cardiac Hill.

At the St. Anthony's Invitational, first-year varsity runner Mya Darsan reached a new personal record with her 95th-place finish. Photo by Bill Landon
At the St. Anthony’s Invitational, first-year varsity runner Mya Darsan reached a new personal record with her 95th-place finish. Photo by Bill Landon

“It’s very difficult; it’s a mountain,” she said. “It’s not straight up — when you think you’re done, there’s another one [to climb]. It’s steep and dirt is coming from everywhere; it’s painful.”

Third across the line for Comsewogue was senior Vanessa Rodriguez-Reyes, who finished 107th in 25:14.43. The time was 18 seconds shy of her personal best.

“At the start, we were running into the wind and that made it hard, so you have to push yourself a lot,” Rodriguez-Reyes said. “But then coming back it was better.”

She also said Cardiac Hill is steep, adding that sometimes runners don’t have enough energy to run up, so they walk.

Johnson said her team’s challenge will be to keep everyone healthy, as the Warriors build toward the division meet.

“The team’s strength is three-fold — the girls who run in the middle of our pack; our leading runner, Karina Allen; and our group of outstanding freshman, including several who have run well this year over the 1.47-mile and 5K courses,” she said. “We have a young team showing great promise for the future.”

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The starting line at the Tunnel to Towers 5K race was lined with American flags. Photo by John Davies

By Jane Koropsak

My feet hit the floor at 4:30 a.m. and for one fleeting moment I wondered why I was up so early on a Sunday morning.

Then, I remembered. Today, Sept. 27, I would participate in the Tunnel to Towers 5K fundraiser in New York City to honor every firefighter who gave the ultimate sacrifice on Sept. 11, 2001, including Stephen Siller, the New York City FDNY firefighter for whom the fundraiser is named.

On that fateful day that changed our nation forever, Siller put on 60 pounds of gear and ran from the Battery Tunnel to the Towers, and 14 years later I was joining thousands of others in retracing his steps.

Duffle bag on my shoulder filled with water, snacks and extra clothes, I headed to the Mastic Fire Department to meet up with some of my colleagues from the Brookhaven Lab and friends from the fire department for our journey to Brooklyn, where the 5K begins.

While waiting for the race to start, standing amid 30,000 people, my eyes teared up during a beautiful rendition of “God Bless America.” The anticipation filled my senses and I wasn’t sure what to expect, as this was my first time at this event. When I saw nearly 7,000 American flags lining the starting line of the race — each flag representing a member of the military who has died for our nation since Sept. 11, 2001 — the tears came once again. It was heart-wrenching.

Soon, we turned a corner and walked under an arch of red, white and blue balloons to start the 5K through the Battery Tunnel. I walked, others ran, and as we all entered the tunnel, we heard hundreds of people chanting “U-S-A, U-S-A” in unison.

Cheerleaders lined the streets. Musicians played on corners. It all gave me goose bumps and prompted me to pick up my pace. Before I knew it, I started running — something I don’t typically do. When we reached the end of the tunnel, we saw streams of sunlight and were greeted by 343 firefighters in their formal uniforms, each holding a flag with an image of a firefighter who perished on 9/11 — 343 heroes who never went home. I proudly high-fived each firefighter standing in line along the route, saying thanks over and over and how much I appreciate all they do every day.

Five kilometers from the start and I was no longer the same person.

When I boarded the bus early that morning I knew how brave these men and women are. I knew that they go to work every day not knowing whether they or a fellow firefighter may not make it home, and I knew that their passion is only felt by a few. You see, I am the sister of an FDNY captain and I am the daughter of a volunteer firefighter who gave the ultimate sacrifice 26 years ago while fighting a fire in my hometown of Sayville. I know personally of their sacrifices and the countless hours they spend training and helping others. During Tunnel to Towers I felt the indescribable deep passion of what it must be like to be a firefighter. And, on the bus ride home, I had time to tuck away the memories of the day for an entry that will have a dog-eared page in my journal.

I salute all of our firefighters, emergency responders, police and military personnel.

I promise I will never forget.

The author works in the Media & Communications Department at Brookhaven National Laboratory.

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Runners pounded the pavement of North Country Road in Miller Place on Sunday for the 19th annual Joe Keany 5K Run/Walk.

The race honors the late Joe Keany, a 1986 Miller Place High School graduate who excelled at cross country and track. Keany was a member of the school’s 1984 county championship cross country team, and received All-County honors in the sport and All-Conference honors in track.

More than 250 people completed the five-kilometer race and another 105 completed a one-mile fun run.

 

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