Hill History- The Rich Hollmann Interview: Part 1

The Hills of Selden…….The Rest of the Story…………

Although we did not know it at the time, Maryann Harkins and myself planted the seed that started this amazing running group that is now known as The Selden Hills Warriors. While this seems so long ago…its been almost 4 years now….in reality our hills have been training runners for decades if not longer. Who knows what the future holds for our group? We only have the present to lay the groundwork for that future. However I have always been curious about the hills runners of the past and how it established the framework of how we train on our beloved hills today.

So my investigative instincts I’ve honed over the many years as a Postal inspector drew me to this assignment:

The Rich Hollmann interview

Rich HollmannRich was the caretaker of the course map we follow today. We love our course with all its idiosyncrasies and varied elevations and strictly follow its 6.2 mile path. However when I recently sat down with Rich at his home in Ronkonkoma he said it was not always this course that they ran those many years ago In fact this was the last course his group used back in the 1980’s.

Lets step back and get a history lesson shall we. Back in the 1970’s and 1980’s there was a running group called the “Middle Country Runners”. It was a small group of a few dozen runners who ran in Selden and the surrounding area. Many of whom worked at either Grumman in Calverton or at the Brookhaven Lab in Upton. Rich was a member of the group. He was also one of the oldest…if not THE oldest member (I can associate with that!) Rich was an airplane mechanic at several airlines over the years and finished up working for FedEx at Kennedy Airport. The Middle Country Runners had a monthly newsletter and met each Wednesday afternoon at 4PM to run the hills. They followed the run with pizza and beer at Angelo’s, which is now Nick and Gina’s in our Selden thrift shopping center. Later on they moved the post run festivities to Amici’s down the road to the west about one mile. Rich still meets up with one of his former training partners on Wednesday evenings from time to time. We met him there in 2010 after one of our first hills runs to say hello and thank him for the map.

The original course they followed turned left on Adirondack Drive before the final hill approaching where we turn left onto Oakcrest. He explained that there was a path that led to the former Ski Bowl site and its surrounding trails. This area no longer exists as such. Part of the site is now where the Armed Services Memorial stands on North Ocean Avenue.

Another course they ran…measured out to be 6.2 miles as well….incorporated the big hill on Blue Point Rd south of where we turn right onto Blue Point from Ridgewood. That was where member Mary Maderos lived and she loved running that hill! Eventually that part of the course was replaced with the Oakcrest/Rosemont loop we run today. So the course was even tougher that it is today!! When we hit Blue Point now we are home free. That course also incorporated a turn onto a side street off Blue Point after crossing Mooney Pond Rd heading to the finish. It also had more hills. So there was no fast flat finish in those days.

Back in the early 1980’s there were 3 races that the MCR’s sponsored that were run in the area of the hills. One was called the Middle Country Runners 10K Bald Hill Spring Classic. it was run in April at 11AM. It benefited the American Cancer Society and MCR running group. The race started and ended at the Bald Hill Ski Bowl, went north on Route 83, turned right on Mooney Pond Rd to Paul’s Path then south on Route 112. You would finish by heading west on Granny Rd off of route 112 to the finish.

The group had their own tee shirts designed as well. Many of the original members of the MCR’s have scattered or are no longer running. However some are still active and running well!!

Bob Lawrence, who got Rich involved in the group 35 years ago, now lives in Coram but unfortunately is wheelchair bound after suffering a stroke. Mary and Skip Maderos are still living in the area but no longer are actively running competitively. The race director of the races the club ran, Ted (Rich could not recall his last name), who lived on Horseblock Rd.,has passed away. Ted was also the president of MCR at one time. The member who drafted our current course was Al Millek. Al no longer lives on LI, moving to NC years ago and has undergone a heart transplant.

Other members who have run the course are Fred Von der Heydt, who is currently very active in GLIRC events setting up the finish line and the rest of the course for all of the GLIRC races. Also Fred’s brother Carl and Carl’s wife, Carolyn, have run the course years back. Helma Clavin, who we still see at many many racing events and is now in her 70’s ran the course as well. She ran the course with us back in 2011 a few times. I would love to see her back out there with us again soon!!

Then there is Rudy Afanador. “Mr. Ultra”. Rudy was a regular who ran the course on his own since he often ran many more than the 6.2 miles. We saw him a few times back in 2011 on his own running the course mile after mile after mile. He would give John Greene lots of competition holding onto that monthly mileage award!! Rudy just completed the LI Marathon in 3:12. He is a LI running legend and he ran and most likely still runs our Selden hills!!

Rich said other running groups would venture down to the hills in Selden to do their own group workouts. He knows Bohemia Track Club used to show up in a large mobile home and pile out to run the course. It included current members Joe Cordero and Jose Mendez, two other LI running legends. They are still racing and winning age group awards in their 70’s. Also Joe Lazzaro came down. Now a member of the North Country Road Warriors. I saw Joe on the course during the half marathon race yesterday and he is still running strong in his late 60’s as well. He has run the hills with our group several times.

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