Ross Kupcha Race Honors Two Truly Great Individuals

BY JACK HEATH

MT. EPHRAIM, NJ--It’s been years since I’ve looked out the window every few hours looking for snow on the Big Day. I found myself doing it again this year--not on December 24 but on an Easter Saturday (April 7) weekend before the 3rd Browning Ross Bob Kupcha run, held at Haddon Lake Park.

The race is named in honor of Browning Ross--two-time Olympian and long-time track and cross-country coach at Gloucester Catholic--and Bob Kupcha, one of Browning’s track athletes at Gloucester Catholic. Bob was an orthopedic surgeon, a war veteran, and a great brother, son, father, and friend who passed away at 42 years old. Bob and I had talked about putting on a race in Browning’s name--thus the race’s name that honors both of our friends.

The forecast before the race was for one to three inches of snow and bitter cold. A far cry from the first two races which featured 70-degree temps. Snow was a concern for two reasons: first, there are three hills on the course. Snow would make these off-road hills treacherous--especially the straight-up climb at the finish. Second, we had over 30 children pre-registered in the free kids’ race. We wanted to make the kids’ race enjoyable and comfortable. Bitter cold and snow would be a hardship--I briefly thought about bringing some sleds to the race.

Not to worry: the weathermen came through again with another erroneous forecast--there wasn’t a flake in sight on race morning. Still, the cold and all the talk of snow the night before kept the post-registration down below levels of the past two years.

This year’s race featured the biggest field yet despite the cold. Two things worked in our favor--ordering long-sleeved shirts and hot coffee for the race. They might have been lead balloons in warm weather but they worked out well.

The race was won by Tom Campo, Jr. of Browning Ross’s hometown of Woodbury, NJ in 19:44. The women’s race was won by 16-year-old Meghan McGowan of York, PA (York Catholic High School) in 22:27--both excellent times on the hilly and chilly course.

Meghan’s mother, Eileen, was a fine track and cross-country runner at Gloucester Catholic during the Browning Ross era and Meghan looks to be an outstanding talent as well.

Both winners pulled away from the field soon after the start and managed to increase their leads after every hill.

The first Gloucester Catholic finishers were graduates Colleen Smith of Glassboro and Chris McGowan, the 800-meter record holder at Gloucester Catholic and a standout at Rutgers University (Chris is no relation to Meghan).

The race featured runners hailing from as far away as Maine to Florida, and from Ohio to even Hawaii (via the U.S. Naval Academy). It also featured the biggest field of walkers and kids to date despite the biting cold.

A few of the 5K runners commented on the family aspect of the race. They mentioned enjoying being able to have everyone be able to do something (the one-mile walk or the kids’ run). They said it seems strange to not see these options at other events.

Kids received free medals (courtesy of Paul’s Custom Trophies and the Camden County Freeholders) for finishing, free long-sleeved shirts, a white pine seedling, and plenty of food including Splash from Campbell Soup, bagels, cheese, and other snacks and drinks.

In the Browning Ross tradition some eclectic prizes were given out:

* Big jars of pickles
* A signed hockey puck from Darian Hatcher of the Flyers
* Gift certificates for pizzas, hoagies, and supermarket shopping
* Phillies hats and shirts
* Eagles autographed pictures
* Runner’s socks from Haddonfield Running Company
* Copies of Serious Distance Runners Handbook which were signed by Tom Osler at the awards ceremony
* Copies of the Long Distance Log, the first running-related magazine, were provided by the Ross family.

I don’t know if there could be a better tribute to both Browning Ross and Bob Kupcha than to see the seedlings grow along with a life-long love of running from the children who may have gotten their running start in the race. Browning passed the torch directly to generations of runners. This race in his honor gives us the opportunity to try to do the same for at least one day a year.

MALE

Overall

1. Tom Campo, Jr. 19:44
2. Chris McGowan 20:20
3. Anthony Defrancesco 20:39

19 and Under

1. Colin Ward 24:05
2. Rollie Maifitan 25:02
3. Robert Quigley 25:05

20-29

1. Brian Fields 22:33
2. Shaun Rendall 24:43
3. Brad Rendall 29:11

30-39

1. Ed Pratt 22:12
2. Ed Morrison 26:48
3. Brian Monroe 27:50

40-49

1. Lee Ooi 23:38
2. Hugh Ward 25:37
3. John McGowan 25:43

50-59

1. David Jenkins 23:43

60 and Over

1. Tom Campo 22:08
2. Walt Pierson 26:08
3. Norman Ostroff 26:09

FEMALE

Overall

1. Meghan McGowan 22:27
2. Susan Boures 25:38
3. Colleen Smith 26:28

19 and Under

1. Erika Page 27:25
2. Liz Glassman 27:35
3. Bryanna Heintzleman 29:06

20-29

1. Brigid McPeak 29:07

30-39

1. Kathleen Vozzelli 31:50
2. Catherine Morrison 32:41

40-49

1. Christine Walden 27:06
2. Terry Dalton 30:48
3. Kathleen Heintzleman 31:37

50-59

1. Marge Morris 29:47
2. Lucille Ettore 36:55

60 and Over

1. Ann Warsing 30:03

Campo Captures Win
at Ross/Kupcha Run

BY JERRY NOLAN

MT. EPHRAIM, NJ -- Haddon Lake Park provided the venue for the third annual Browning Ross/Bob Kupcha 5K held on April 7. This pocket park includes a lake which is about one mile around. On this day the runners shared the park with walkers, bikers, skaters, and some fishermen out for the opening day of trout season.

The race is named after Browning Ross and Bob Kupcha, both deceased, who each made a significant contribution to the local community. Browning Ross ran for Woodbury High School, later at Villanova, and also for two Olympic teams. Many refer to him as the “Father of Long-Distance Running” and with good reason. Even while he was still a competitive runner he wrote about running (The Long Distance Log). He was also a coach, official, and race director. Ross, who died in 1998, also started the Road Runners Club of America which now has 175,000 members and over 700 running clubs.

Bob Kupcha was an outstanding wrestler and football player at Gloucester Catholic High School. He was also a member of the first winning track team in the school’s history, which was coached by Ross. Kupcha, who later became a medical doctor, died in 2001.

This race featured a father-and-son combination, both of whom won awards. In an impressive family performance, Tom Campo, Jr., age 36, took first place overall with a time of 19:44. His father, Tom, age 60, finished fourth overall in 22:08 to take first place in the 60-69 age group while beating his nearest rival in that group by four minutes. Both Compos live in Woodbury where Ross lived all of his life.

Many of the 63 finishers included runners who ran in many of the races which Ross offered the local running community. Tom Osler, age 66, (29:10) met Ross when he was a teenager and Ross became his mentor. Finishing second and third, respectively, were Chris McGowan, age 24, from Haddonfield and Anthony DeFrancesco, age 16, from Glassboro (20:39). Taking top honors among the women was Meghan McGowan, age 16, from York, PA (22:27). Following her was Susan Boures, age 39, from Canton, CT (25:38) and Colleen Smith, age 25, from Glassboro (26:28).

A large number also participated in the kids’ run and one-mile walk. All the kids were delighted with the medals they received as they crossed the same finish line (race clock and chute) as the 5K runners. The presence of so many teenagers and youngsters would have pleased Ross as they provided a nice “buzz” to the event.

Jack Heath, the race director, ran for Ross at Gloucester Catholic. Later he was an assistant under Ross and when Ross died, Heath became the head coach. Since putting this race together three years ago, Heath has had a good response from the school, the alumni, and the current team members. He also has received cooperation from businesses, the community, and other sponsors. Awards were extensive?medals, gift certificates, and merchandise. Other races have been established in the name of Ross since his death. Some have survived?some haven’t. This race, however, looks like it has staying power.