Van Cortlandt Greatness

Van Cortlandt Park
Van Cortlandt Park

Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx is a Mecca for northeast cross country runners. Beginning in the early 1920s, runners charged over the “flats,” “back hills,” and the infamous Cemetery Hill, where the deceased members of the Van Cortlandt family reside. The 2.5-mile course is rich with tradition and is yearly one of the most traversed raceways in the country as high school runners from across the nation make pilgrimages to take their shot at “Vanny.” The record lists of Van Cortlandt include transcendent names like Alberto Salazar, the former world record-holder in the marathon, and Alan Webb, the high school record-holder in the mile, which makes it all the more amazing that Stony Brook is well-represented on the course’s all-time honor roll.

1964 | Randall (left) and Ogden finish in an intentional tie for 1st in the St. John’s Invite

1964 was a remarkable year for Peter Randall ’65, one of the finest runners in Stony Brook history. The senior won the NYU Invitational, the St. John’s Invitational, the Eastern States Championship, and the Ivy League Championship all on the trails of Van Cortlandt. What is more remarkable is that he cruised to the course’s best time on three different occasions that fall. In the NYU Invite he smashed the course record by seven seconds in 12:52, while teammate Glenn Ogden narrowly missed breaking the old course record himself with a mark of 13:00. At the Eastern States, he joined Robin Lingle as the only two Stony Brook runners to win the race and, in doing so, obliterated his own course record by ten seconds in 12:42.2. He broke the course record for a third time in 12:36.5 in the Ivy League Championship, a mark that stood for two years.

Laura Whitney 1981 Nationals XC
Laura Whitney at the 1981 National Championship in San Diego

Laura Whitney ’82, the best female runner in Stony Brook history, enjoyed Van Cortlandt success of her own. A four-time New York State Cross Country Champion and 1977 New York State Federation Champion, she also excelled in the 2-mile run, earning All-American honors in 1980. In 1979, Laura set the 2.5-mile Van Cortlandt course record with a time of 14:38.6, a mark that stood for two years and one that still places her at #27 on the all-time list. She also stands at #22 on the 5000 meter all-time list for her 17:45.0 run in 1981.

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