Cross country runners at Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School are a hearty bunch, often braving the wind and cold to practice their sport.
Recently, on a brisk January day, the runners were assembled en masse at Meadowridge Park in Rumson — their official practice venue — for a different reason. They were there for the unveiling of a plaque honoring their coaches and the RFH Girls' 2011 Cross Country Team.
Visitors approaching the start of the Meadowridge walking and running path will now be greeted by a plaque bearing the inscription "In Honor of Tim McLoone and Henry Mercer for their years of personal dedication to building a culture of commitment, inspiration, teamwork, and success for all past, present, and future RFH cross country runners." The plaque also gives special recognition to the 2011 RFH Girls Cross Country runners, Coach McLoone, Coach Mercer, and Coach Catherine Satzke for being the number one team in New Jersey and winner of the 2011 Meet of Champions.
In his speech opening the ceremony, Rumson Mayor John Ekdahl praised the coaches for their dedication. He said, "There are coaches, and then there are these coaches." He also remarked about the success of the 2011 girls' team, noting that in order to win the top honor in the state they had to compete successfully against high schools of all different sizes as opposed to just those in their division.
The Mayor's speech was followed by short presentations by parents Kevin Hill and Jack Howley, both of whom were instrumental in planning the ceremony.
Mr. Hill thanked the coaches for their efforts to build the program. He remarked that he sees a lot more RFH students running cross country today than he did when his eldest son began as a freshman.
Mr. Howley expressed his gratitude to the coaches for serving as terrific role models and mentors to the runners. He said, "My eldest daughter actually wrote her college entrance essay about Tim McLoone."
The plaque, which bears the seal of the borough of Rumson and names Meadowridge Park as the "Home of Rumson-Fair Haven Cross Country" was unveiled by Mayor Ekdahl along with Mr. Hill and Mr. Howley.
Coach Mercer spoke about his love of running and coaching and thanked the parents for their support. He said, "I am so grateful for the opportunity to coach such a consistently wonderful group of kids."
Coach McLoone acknowledged the growth of the program and the success of the 2011 girls' team, but added that while winning is "nice" it is not the reason for his enjoyment of the season. "I am all about the process," he said, adding "I think I sometimes enjoy the practices even more than I enjoy the meets."