04022011_track0008

Distance runners and Mineola, N.Y., natives Mike Kiley (front) and Conor Nickel (left) were both personally affected by the 9/11 tragedy. When the Chaminade High School graduates head home for the Fordham Fiasco this weekend, the memories “will help us run faster,” Nickel said.

Photo: Alex Neier / The Daily Pennsylvanian

Each year before he goes back to school, Penn men’s cross country runner and Long Island native Mike Kiley takes comfort in telling his parents that he will see them in just a few weeks when the team competes in the annual Fordham Fiasco in New York each September.

The homecoming will be even more poignant for Kiley and fellow Long Island native and teammate Conor Nickel this year. On Saturday, the Fiasco will feature a special pre-race memorial of the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Members of the New York Fire and Police Departments, as well as congressman and Homeland Security Chairman Peter King, are expected to attend.

Fordham’s ROTC Color Guard and Campus Ministry will be on hand to commemorate the anniversary of what Kiley and Nickel remember as one of the scariest days of their lives.

“Two of my uncle’s best friends died because they had gone back into the towers to help people out and it collapsed on them,” Kiley said.

“My dad actually worked across the block from the World Trade Center,” Nickel remembered. “He went in early that day because he had a meeting and from their conference room, the windows looked out to the World Trade Center. They had a meeting in there at 8:00 a.m. and after almost an hour, they saw a plane crash into the building, and I remember him describing it as one of the scariest things he’d ever seen.”

Kiley and Nickel, who attended Chaminade High School in Mineola, N.Y., together, both plan on using the memory of 9/11 as a motivator this weekend.

“That [memory] will help us run faster,” Nickel said.

Supplementing the teams’ 9/11 experiences will be their extensive experience at Van Cortlandt Park. Saturday will mark the seventh race run in the last three years at the park for both the women and men, and it is also where Nickel and Kiley both worked out and raced when they ran cross country together at Chaminade.

“All along the race in the back hills section, there are these wooden planks just randomly around to keep all the dirt and sediment in place,” Nickel said. “Knowing that they’re coming and that if you stay to the right at a particular spot that you’re going to avoid it, definitely gives you an advantage.”

“I know for people who haven’t raced there before, they feel like they’re in the back hills forever,” Kiley added.

Ultimately, though, this weekend will likely be remembered for what comes before and after the runners cross the finish line.

“I’m probably going to go to Ground Zero on Sunday,” Nickel said. “It’s definitely going to be fitting.”

Comments powered by Disqus

Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.