Athletes come running back to Vannie
By Adam Wisnieski
For many years, cross-country races in Van Cortlandt Park began on the southern end of the Parade Ground, where hundreds of runners would line up and, with the crack of the starting pistol, take off for 600 meters across the open field before ascending into the hills.
Running in Van Cortlandt Park did not stop altogether because of recent construction, but the starting place for the famed cross-country course was temporarily changed, and some major races took a hiatus from using the park.
But now that the fences around the Parade Ground have been removed, Van Cortlandt Park’s world-renowned cross-country course will return to normal.
After a four-year absence, the NCAA Northeast Regional may return to Vannie in 2013, just in time for the course’s 100th anniversary.
“It’s great. It’s absolutely fantastic,” said Dan Mecca, longtime head coach of Manhattan College’s cross-country team. “It’s about time.”
Manhattan College and Columbia University will bid to host the prestigious 2013 NCAA Northeast Regionals in Van Cortlandt Park, according to Mr. Mecca. The race has not been held in Vannie since 2008, the year construction began.
High school runners can rejoice as well because the Foot Locker Cross Country Championships announced it will return to Vannie on Saturday, Nov. 24 after a three-year absence due to the construction.
The Heptagonal cross-country championship, the historic Ivy League race, may also return to Vannie next year, but a spokesman for the Ivy League said coaches would make that decision after this year’s race.
Before the fences went up, Mr. Mecca said the race would usually be alternately held in Boston’s Franklin Park and Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx.
Last year, the race, which includes 39 Division I teams from New York City to Maine, was held in Buffalo, N.Y., and this year’s race will be held Friday, Nov. 9 in Madison, Conn.
Parade Ground construction was done in phases, which were not supposed to overlap but did because of delays, altering the historic beginning of not only the NCAA Northeast Regional, but all cross-country races in Vannie.
Mr. Mecca said now that the course is back to normal and begins on what’s called the “flats,” it’s fairer.
“I thought it was the most honest where you had a combination of flats you had hills you had everything you would want in a true cross-country race,” he said.