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Sapienza Memorial is a family affair
twenty-first editon of the Sapienza memorial was dedicated to the memory of
Audrey Sapienza, wife of the late great Tony Sapienza, who recently lost a three-year
battle with breast cancer. Ironically she
passed away exactly 20 years to the day from when Tony was stricken with a fatal
heart attack after breaking the American Master's record for 3000 meters in
1987 at Brown University.
The first time I met Audrey
Sapienza I told her about my memories of running in races with her husband.
I told her how amazed I was that Tony ran so fast with his somewhat awkward
running form. She told me "The only person that believed Tony could
run fast was Tony." Actually
there were three other people that believed Tony could run fast - Audrey and
her two daughters Toni and Joy.
winners Jessica Flinn and Steven Plouffe with their classic trophies.
"When we were young
our job was to pick out the merchandise at races," recalls Toni Donais,
Sapienza's daughter. In those days many races awarded merchandise to the winners.
The merchandize was usually displayed on a table. When the Sapienza' s would
arrive at a race, Toni and Joy were quick to scout out the best loot for their
dad. This was a regular occurrence for the sisters because as Toni points out,
"Daddy always won."
All totaled Tony Sapienza
won a remarkable 33 New England Championships, placed fourth in the 1958 Boston
Marathon and finished sixth at the 1963 Olympic Marathon Trials. Not bad for
a guy that few people believed could run fast.
Road racing for the Sapienza's
was a family affair. Tony would run, Joy and Toni would pick out the best prize
and Audrey would be involved with the race organization. Audrey was usually
responsible for writing down the runner's numbers in the order they finished.
This was the perfect job for her since she was on a first name basis with 90
to 95-pecent of the runners.
This year's running of the Sapienza memorial is the type of event that would
have made both Tony and Audrey proud. It was a family oriented affair that had
lots of food for everyone, not just the runners, great competition and, of course,
a terrific merchandize table. The best prizes, however, were reserved for tonight's
male and female winners. Both were presented with classic trophies that Tony
had won in 1961 and 1964. As Master-of-Ceremonies Dave LaBrode pointed out the
trophies were older than tonight's winners.
The overall winner, by way
of UMass Lowell and Methuen, MA, was Steven Plouffe. The Riverhawk cross-country
standout zipped through the rolling course in 20:15 finishing ahead of John
Henley (20:39) of Chelmsford and Matt Pimentel (20:58) of Andover. The women's
title went to Jessica Flinn of Sandown, NH who ran 23:03. The Boston College
cross-country and track star is off to St. Louis this fall to attend law school.
Two Merrimack Valley Striders closely followed her, Kara Molloy (23:41) of Chelmsford
and Caroline Bjune (24:14) of Andover.
The Sapienza Memorial is
a well-organized event that fittingly memorializes one of the Merrimack Valley's
greatest runners and his wife who was one of New England's most dedicated race
volunteers. This race, like its namesakes, is a winner and hopefully will continue
on for another 21 years.