By Ron Leir
Jim Cifelli got the running bug when he started competing as a seventhgrader at Franklin School in 1960, continued at Kearny High School in the mid-60s, and then coached KHS track teams for two decades before guiding KHS cross-country the last two years. So when it came time for his alma mater to find someone to help plot a course for what’s being billed as the “Inaugural Kardinal 5K 2013,” Cifelli was the natural choice. The charity run/walk event – designed as a fundraiser for KHS extra-curriculum clubs – is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 7, from 8 to 11 a.m. The run will begin at the high school stadium and weave through residential side streets, through West Hudson Park and back. While the event – which is open to the general public – is described as “family friendly and suitable for both runners and walkers” and as a “celebration of student excellence beyond the classroom and more,” runners will get certified times. Incidentally, anyone figuring they can coast through this course had better think twice, volunteer course marshal Cifelli cautioned. “For serious runners, it’s a difficult course,” he said. “There are lots of hills in West Hudson Park.” He should know – his KHS teams use the park as their home course. Those in the know, Cifelli said, say that experienced runners who tackle the well-trod 5K (3.1-mile) cross country trail at Holmdel Park (where the state cross country Meet of Champions is held) can expect to run maybe five seconds faster doing a comparable distance in West Hudson Park. If you still think that Cifelli’s just blowing smoke, just consider that his bona fides go beyond high school coaching – he assists Frank Gagliano, the head coach of the New Jersey-New York Track Club who has coached 13 Olympians during a career that’s spanned nearly half a century. Of the total course length, West Hudson Park accounts for a demanding mile and a quarter loop, Cifelli said. For the Kearny race, runners will start under the goalpost at the south end of the KHS stadium (near Garfield Ave.), exit to Quincy Ave. and turn east (downhill) to Davis Ave. where they’ll head south into the park at Dukes St., proceed down the path to the playground, continue toward Schuyler Ave., then loop around and exit the park onto Davis, back to Quincy, turn west to Forest St. and back into the stadium where they’ll finish on the track. To make sure that the course being laid out matched the desired mileage, Cifelli said he walked part of it with a measuring wheel and, for the rest, “my wife drove while I was dangling my arm out the window with the wheel.” To ensure safety of the runners, those streets along the route “will be barricaded and secured” by KHS volunteers and “closed to through traffic” and to parking from 8 to 10:30 a.m., according to a statement released by the race organizers. Residents on those blocks will be notified of those closures “no later than Sept. 1,” the release said. The fun part comes in at the end of the race, Cifelli said, where “the idea is to make it more like a carnival; you’ve got music playing (by the KHS Band), food and drink. Runners love free things at the back end of (the race).” There will also be tents set up at the KHS stadium “to display student work and/or distribute information,” the organizers said. KHS Life Skills Supervisor Wendy Kerr, another of the 12 event volunteers, will be contributing to the celebratory theme as food coordinator. “We’re looking for donations for things like bananas and oranges, bagels and muffins – all stuff that will go down easily for the runners,” she said. Kerr, a KHS alumna who played soccer during her secondary school career, said she competes regularly in 5K events in the area and is hoping to run, health permitting, in the upcoming race. Other staffers working hard to make the event a success are: registration coordinator Alan Correnti, volunteer coordinator Jennifer Correnti, awards coordinator/race codirector John Millar, logistics coordinator Police Sgt./OEM Director John Manley, secretary Sally Sprague, treasurer Charlotte Harris, design director Chris McShane, media coordinator Chris Correnti and KHS Principal Al Gilson, race co-director. “We’re all set with the town and county in terms of police, public works and park coverage,” Gilson said. To help defray costs associated with the event, “we’ve also sent out sponsor letters and we’ve already gotten some contributions totaling about $2,000.” Asked last week how much has been budgeted for the event, Gilson said: “I couldn’t tell you directly overall but I have no doubt we’re going to make a small profit.” “So far,” he added, “we have had outstanding support from the community regarding sponsorship and a commitment to registering for the race to help us offset our costs.” Gilson said the committee is still looking for sponsors to cover items like “port-o- Johns, T-shirts, time and/or race results and bib numbers, awards, water and banners.” Some 500 runners/walkers are projected and several hundred spectators may be watching, the committee has estimated. Some funds will come from the registration fee that participants will be asked to pay: The fee is $25 on or before Sept. 1; it’s $30 on race day; and $5 “for each additional family member.” A free T-shirt is “guaranteed to the first 100 participants that register.” Here’s the day’s schedule: Registration begins at 7 a.m.; the race starts at 8:30 a.m.; the Kids Fun Run steps off at 9 a.m.; and awards will be distributed to the top participant in each age division (9-12, 13- 19, 20-29, 30-39, 40-49, 50-64, and 65 and older) immediately after the fun run. Registration fees are payable online by visiting the Board of Education web page or by check, payable to Kearny High School. Payments may be mailed with completed registration forms to Kearny High School, 336 Devon St., Kearny, N.J. 07032. For more information, call John Millar at 201-955-5050, ext. 1, or e-mail Kardinal5K@ kearnyschools.com. For updates, check twitter. com/kardinal5k.