Steve Lauria Remembered
By David Panza
August 27, 2003 - The very successful Steve Lauria Series has just ended, and my thoughts turn once again to our friend and fellow running warrior Steve Lauria. As I ride my bicycle down to Gateway Park on this beautiful day, I reflect on the day and wonder what Steve would have thought about it.
He would surely have been moved by the tribute in his honor, the race over his hallowed Fun Run course that 60 or more athletes ran in his name on four different days. Steve would have been thrilled at the choice of Lisa Rigolini to take his place among the Fab Four race coordinators. She has done such a wonderful job. Our buddy would have marveled at the continued excellence of veterans Scott LaMorte, Gail Marino and Alma Ramos, and new talent like Tanya French, Christine Connelly and Mohammed Lahseni.
The paperweight awards for the race series were beautiful, and mine will always be a treasured possession. What would a big Fun Run be without the vaunted javelin competition?! Veteran tosser Steve Puchalski overcame an early challenge by Fred Rigolini and pulled off an incredible 141 foot heave on his last effort. Barbara North won the ladies' event in 42 feet. Several of us managed to whack ourselves while tossing the long pole, hindering our chances of bettering 141 feet (ha ha). And Scott LaMorte always manages to make headlines, as he ignored our repeated warnings to yield to an oncoming cyclist, and instead prepared for his approach. Fortunately, the terrified man was scared off, saving sure disaster.
Again, thoughts of Steve come back. He was just rounding into shape, hitting the track on Tuesday nights, and improving his times slowly. His high school training under George Kochman was coming back to him, and he was poised to make a big impact on the master's scene, just a year away from age 40. He loved to run, talk about running, and laugh about running. His easy laugh and sparkling smile made for easy friendship.
Alma Ramos visited Steve's mom Ann down in Florida for a week recently. We were supposed to be a rock for Ann, but instead, she was the rock for us. What an amazing woman. Alma and Ann have been so close, and the extraordinary quilt that Alma labored over for so long moved Ann greatly. Alma collapsed to the ground after the Fun Run that day, and finished the final strand of the quilt at the finish line. I won't soon forget the emotion of that moment.
What would make Steve most proud is the continuation of his beloved Fun Run, in all weather conditions. The runners competing at different levels, but always with great cheer. Runners picking up the mile markers afterward, to save the Fun Run coordinators that extra trip. Saturday morning, Clove Lakes Park. Hot, cold, rainy, clear, muggy, whatever. Steve is there, looking over us, proud and loving.
We prepare for the Celic Race soon, more memories of another beloved friend. Nearly two years have passed, but I still feel they are with us, and always will be. Thanks to all of you who make the Fun Run an event that is still special.
And thank you, Steve and Tom, for being the men that you were.