RUTHERFORD, N.J. – John Brennan of Clark is the "dean" of Felician College head coaches, approaching his 13th season leading the Golden Falcon men's and women's cross-country teams. For every one of those years, he has had Sebastian Powell of West Orange as his lead assistant.
But their Felician coaching posts are part-time endeavors. Both Brennan and Powell make their livings as education administrators. Brennan, a longtime elementary-school principal, has held that position at Hardyston Elementary School of Franklin since 2008. So when Powell was promoted to principal of elementary schools in the Belvidere school district prior to the 2013-14 academic year, he hatched an idea that incorporated their mutual interests in education, competition, and fitness.
The inaugural 100-Mile Challenge was born.
"We simply challenged our students and staff to run or walk 100 miles throughout the school year, and turned it into a competition between the two schools," Powell said. "We split it into Grades 1, 2, 3, 4 and staff, and each grade was worth a point."
The two principals compensated for Hardyston's much larger class size by using an average of miles run/walked per student. The competition was tracked regularly and remained close throughout the winter and into the spring. But when the final numbers were tallied, Powell's Belvidere team emerged victorious, 4-1, with Hardyston winning only the fourth grade group.
Of course, it would not be a true competition if there weren't a "prize."
"Much fun was had by all and we want to turn this into a yearly event," Brennan said. "So in September, we're going to have a kick-off assembly for next year's 100-Mile Challenge. Belvidere's nickname is the County Seaters but their mascot costume is a raccoon. Sebastian and his superintendent will deliver the costume to Hardyston for the assembly. And since Hardyston lost, guess who has to run a lap wearing the raccoon costume in front of both schools' students and staff?!"
Felician College, the Franciscan College of New Jersey, is a liberal arts, coeducational Catholic college founded in 1942 and sponsored by the Felician Sisters. True to its mission, Felician College welcomes a diverse student population and embraces its educational needs. With campuses in Lodi and Rutherford, New Jersey, Felician College currently enrolls more than 2,200 students and offers more than 55 undergraduate and graduate programs, in the classroom and online, in the arts and sciences, business and management sciences, health sciences and teacher education. Felician College also sponsors 13 varsity intercollegiate sports that compete at the NCAA Division II and National Collegiate levels.