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by Arnas Cula

By way of introduction (for those of you who don’t frequent the forum on this website), my name is Arnas Cula, I live in the Bronx, and I am the incoming chairperson of the New York Road Racing OmbudsAssociation (NYRROA). When I contacted webmaster Richie Re to ask him if I might have a space on this website to write an article, I indicated that it would probably be a one-time thing. I have no intention of writing a regular column here, as the previous chairperson did--I am not a Staten Island resident and I don’t think my writing skills match those of my predecessor, anyway. Nevertheless, I thank Richie for giving me a place to have my say.

Through my membership with NYRROA and my long-time friendship with former chair Glenn Ribotsky, I’ve become at least somewhat familiar with some of the issue in road racing on Staten Island, particularly the troubles surrounding the Triple Crown Road Racing Series. Recently, a meeting was held at the Staten Island Advance involving the principals of the three races in the series, as well as representatives from various Island running organizations. The results of that meeting are detailed on this website, in a piece written by Staten Island Athletic Club vice-president Andy Burek, and it seems, at least according to what he wrote, a number of the difficulties regarding race registration, organization, and scoring are going to be standardized, and a lot of the sticking points removed. If what has been apparently agreed to actually comes to pass, things should flow along much more smoothly in the series, and that’s always a good thing, both from NYRROA’s perspective and that of the participating runners. So why am I taking up space here?

Well, it’s because I don’t think credit has been given—by the runners, the clubs, or the race or series personnel—to the person who, in my opinion, is most responsible for having brought up most of these problems in the first place, who worked long and tirelessly to publicize them and gather support among the members of the Staten Island running community to do something about them, and without whom I don’t think this meeting would have ever come off (although he was not invited to attend it—he makes a number of those race and series personnel feel all fablunjet, if I’m using that Yiddish term right). That person, of course, is the outgoing NYRROA chair, Glenn Ribotsky.

As NYRROA chair, Glenn left behind a legacy of activism and accomplishment that ranges far beyond Staten Island, but he was heavily involved in reforming the Triple Crown race series even before NYRROA was founded, and nobody seems to remember how he was the driving force behind now-adopted practices at the races that made things better and fairer for all concerned. It was Glenn who first questioned why Pepper Martin, in these enlightened times, counted male runners as masters competitors at age 40, but females at 35, for purposed of team scoring. (This was subsequently changed after a petition he wrote and which was signed by over 150 runners was circulated.) Glenn also pointed out the unfairness, particularly to women, of scoring both team results and Triple Crown standings for individuals by overall place in the race, rather than by place in gender. This used to result in a female race winner having a point total of say, 46th, meaning she was in that place overall in the race—Glenn argued persuasively that that made women’s scores and standings dependent on how many men ran in the race, which, since they were not competing against men for prizes, should not be. (Now a female winner gets a numerical value of 1, the 2nd 2, and so on—not 46, then 73, then whatever depending on how many male runners were in between.) Glenn also recommended that all the races in the series use Fred Torres’ and his Elite Racing Systems group, who were originally only involved with the Ronaldson run, to score the results and keep track of the Triple Crown standings electronically, rather than by hand, which had previously been done by the Staten Island Advance’s Jack Minogue (none too happily, I am told). This eventually came to pass as well. Glenn’s urging got the races to accept the premise that a given club should not register multiple teams in the same age or gender category for the team competition—this helped open up the team competition to area clubs that had fewer members and less deep rosters. Finally, this meeting apparently has at long last addressed the whole race day application issue—Glenn was the first to indicate that with electronic race scoring possible, there was no reason to ban race day applications, or team registration on race day, and that application materials should certainly reflect the actual practices of the races, if only to prevent them from legal action. (Many of you who read the stuff on this site know he’s been arguing that with Pepper Martin in particular for years—it seems they’ve finally relented and are going to take that week before final registration day language off their material.)

In reading Andy’s piece on the meeting, it struck me how so many of these issues I first found out about from Glenn’s articles. I think it’s more than a little stupid that Glenn was not in on that meeting at the Advance—after all, why invite the person who is probably the metro area’s leading expert on road race administration to a meeting about the administration of road races—but I’m sure Glenn would trade that for an assurance that the decisions Andy mentioned will be adhered too. For those of you out there who are going to say that Glenn would never be invited to such a meeting because he managed to piss off everyone involved with his articles, I would remind you that his tone only got confrontational when years went by without certain issues being addressed—or the principals even responding to him—and that in the final analysis, he seems to be almost universally right on just about all of them. I’d like to think that still counts for something. Even on Staten Island.

So, Glenn, consider this your getting the credit that you deserve, even if it’s from someone you know and have worked with so long. I’d like to suggest one other little way maybe some of you out there, who should be ashamed at some of the ignorant stuff you’ve thrown at him over the years—especially those of you involved with the road race scene on Staten Island, who should know better—might remedy the situation.

From reading on the website, especially Bobby Orazem’s “What’s Going On”, I understand that the Staten Island Athletic Club gives out an award each year at the SIAC/Triple Crown Dinner that is billed as the highest award for service in Staten Island running—that’s the Lou Marli award, right, Bobby? I’ve read the past few years about the nominees, and all I can say that if the criteria are long-time service to Staten Island running, and you don’t have to be a Staten Island Athletic Club member to be nominated (am I right on that?), it’s long past time you at least nominated Glenn Ribotsky for this award next year. I’ve seen the names of some of the other nominees (such as former Tortoise Track and Road Runners President Nancy Heffron, who would be the first to tell you that team and its events would not have existed without Glenn’s input and advice), and I’m sure Glenn’s record of accomplishment and service, even beyond the Triple Crown area, more than matches up with most of them. (Remember that Glenn’s efforts around MAC and the NYRRC contribute to the well-being of all runners. On Staten Island, he’s got plenty in his portfolio besides Triple Crown stuff—the Tommy Hart Summer Series, the Rosebank Run, and Corrinne’s Pride would not exist without him, and he’s always ready to give his time and advice to anyone involved in the sport.) I think the award would gain a lot more credibility if it seriously considered someone who has sometimes been at odds with the organization that gives it. I don’t think anyone has ever dominated the discourse on road running on Staten Island the way Glenn did in the decade of the 1990’s, and his work in areas off the Island that still affect many Island runners, such as that involving the New York Road Runners Club and the Metropolitan Athletics Congress, is something that can be added to the nomination. (So, anybody in SIAC have this degree of courage?)

--Arnas Cula