The Staten Island Runner

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July 14, 2000 

NYRROArs   by Glenn Ribotsky

An ongoing commentary on issues in the Staten Island and metropolitan road racing community, complied through the auspices of the New York Road Race OmbudsAssociation.


We’re keeping the focus narrow and in the neighborhood this month.

Perhaps the most surprising development in the Staten Island Triple Crown road race series this year was the controversy surrounding the team scoring in the middle event of the series, the Al Ronaldson Memorial race. Until this year, the Ronaldson run had been the one race in the series that had, for the most part, avoided controversy since the Triple Crown had been reincarnated in 1993. (The other constituent races, the Advance Memorial Day Run and the Pepper Martin Run on Independence Day, have come in for more than their share of criticism over the years.) The Ronaldson race has suffered through some uncertainty in its management (as well as some funding difficulties) in the last few years, since original race coordinator Gene Lopes stepped down, and this has resulted in not all parties being on the same page regarding race management and practice. The lack of a definitive decision-maker was revealed when, at this year’s contest, team scoring, which under Mr. Lopes had involved the scoring of three-person teams--that being indicated on the race’s application materials--was shifted to five-person team scoring for the men’s open and master’s divisions. (The reasons as to how/why this happened are still hazy; race scorer Fred Torres of Elite Racing Systems, who scores all three races in the series, reports that he received some communications from the series administrators to try to consolidate the practices of the three races—the other events have five-man open team scoring—but that, owing to confusion among those on the Ronaldson committee and their lateness in producing an application, he did not receive a definite statement as to how that committee wanted its team scoring to proceed. Mr. Torres indicated that he was not even sure who had the definite say in this matter; it can also be surmised, though, that he did not make as strong an effort to get it resolved as would be hoped.) In the end, this confusion resulted in an embarrassing situation for the race—the team competition results were altered considerably scoring five runners per team as opposed to three. The recriminations from this played out over this web site’s forum, and in other local running arenas, over the next few weeks. In the wake of the embarrassment, Mike Ronaldson (Al’s brother), who until now had concerned himself mostly with the fund-raising aspects of the event, has promised to take a more active role in the race mechanics (and has consulted with NYRROA on this, as Mr. Lopes used to do) to prevent this from occurring again and to try and ensure consistency among all three races of the series. Mr. Torres has also promised to be more energetic in pursuit of that goal; he has suggested changes to the Ronaldson application to clarify the situation. (Perhaps, in a few more years, the entire series will run smoothly and consistently—see below.)

A shorter local note--is it any coincidence that following last month’s comments in this column about the lack of mention, on this web site or on the club’s own, of the New York Road Runners Club (NYRRC) Kurt Steiner Summer Evening Series races on Staten Island (no results, commentary, or whatever, in contrast to those races in the Series held in Brooklyn, the results of which are regularly posted on the NYRRC’s site), that the results of the races here, and little narratives about how the competition unfolded, suddenly started to be submitted to webmaster Richie Re for inclusion on this site? I had noted last month that a race series as controversial as this one had become among Staten Islanders (most of whom shun it) since Kurt’s passing, after it fell under what many perceived to be the incompetent/undesired control of Vic Navarra’s Event Management Group, should be trying to rebuild its reputation by making itself as accessible as possible, but nothing, not even its schedule, had been posted at the comments appeared. (NYRROA’s part in pressuring the NYRRC for a better series and possibly different management of it, and the rise of Tommy’s Hart’s Thursday night Summer Series as an alternative to it, have been documented in this column before.) Just asking . . .

Speaking of race management, it’s still sad that a recalcitrant race committee still keeps so many ambivalent about running the Pepper Martin Run, the final leg of the Triple Crown Series. It suffered a decrease in aggregate number of finishers for its seventh consecutive year, despite efforts made to allow veterans, through a grant-funded program, to race without the entry fee (a nice touch, actually) and the introduction of a walking division. (This at a time when many other Staten Island races are having some success pumping up their numbers.) My own battles with the Pepper Martin committee, again, have been well-documented on this site before, and it’s probable that some of the issues raised here have contributed to the numbers drop, but I suspect that the numerical drop has more to do with the perception that the race has become cheaper, rather than reaction to the more arcane issues of race management fairness that NYRROA has brought up. There have been a number of complaints that the T-shirts don’t hold together as well as they used to, that there has been inadequate refreshment for the runners recently—where once there had been soda, large amounts of fruit, and the like, the last few years there has been but orange slices and water—and that it would be nice to get plaques for in the team competition for more than just the first place team in each division. Also, many runners have disliked the blatant politicizing that tends to go on at the opening of the race and at the awards ceremony—this year, Democratic county chair and North shore Assembly candidate John Lavelle was trotted out at the latter, and as someone who claimed upon assuming the chairpersonship that he had no interest in running for elective office, he has annoyed enough people within his own party (never mind the Republicans) to be a questionable presence in that atmosphere.

It’s sad, because, as a competition, the race has something going for it—a tough, varied course that is typically lined with vocal spectators. It does, however, also have a governing body that may be as unconcerned and insensitive to the actual conduct of the race, and the competitive concerns of the race participants, as any in the country.  

And yet, an incident that occurred this year may be both indicative of the problems and have within it the seed of their solution—an incident I was fortunate enough to witness. The Pepper Martin race has a special team category and series of awards for teams that are not primarily running-based; historically, groups of middle-of-the-packers representing a local bar or business or whatever have gotten together to form such teams and compete for these awards, as they would be unlikely to be competitive in the regular club team competition. The application for the race has always asked that all team rosters be submitted some days before the actual running of the event, ostensibly because the event, on its literature, has indicated a final registration date some days before as well—in other words, the impression given by the application is that there is no race day registration. (There is race-day registration, of course, and this discrepancy has been one of the major sticking points in terms of race management fairness that NYRROA has had with the event. Though the local media outlets have indicated that there is race day registration—even webmaster Richie Re, apparently not wanting to look foolish to the on-line running community, unilaterally altered the Pepper application accessible through this web site to indicate that there was race day entry—the race committee has stubbornly refused to alter the original applications—it would probably involve about six additional words or so—for reasons known only to itself.) Anyway, this year, after the awards ceremony, I was standing and speaking with race scorer Fred Torres (whose presence at this race is a definite NYRROA accomplishment, considering the problems the previous scorer left the Advance with totaling up the Triple Crown results) when race director Mike McVey came breathlessly rushing over to indicate there were several special teams that had not been scored. Fred’s first question was if they had been put together from the race day sign-ups; apparently most if not all of them had, and as they walked away, with Fred indicating there was little he could do about assigning teams to race day entrants, it took a lot on my part not to laugh. Now, it seems even the race director doesn’t want to follow his own literature’s instructions. While I have my doubts, maybe the ludicrousness of this situation will make Mr. McVey “come in from the cold”, “do the right thing”, or whatever other cliché you want to draw upon, and finally alter the race literature to conform to the practices even he now seems to desire.

Glenn Ribotsky
Chair, New York Road Race OmbudsAssociation
84 Vogel Loop
Staten Island, NY 10314