Binghamton University’s crew team held its sixth-annual John McKenna Memorial 5K run on Saturday, in honor of John McKenna, ‘98, a U.S. Marine who was killed in action in Iraq in 2006. This year, more than 500 people signed up for early registration, which was about 50 more than last year’s race that had about 1,000 runners participate.
McKenna attended BU from 1994 to 1998, and received a bachelor’s degree in history. While not on active duty as a U.S. Marine, he served as a New York State Trooper.
The race was founded by Michael Eichler, a BU Crew alumnus, when he was a student in 2006, according to Kelsey Wasilewski, the event’s public relations co-chair and a member of the crew team.
Eichler contacted the McKenna family after John’s death, looking for a way to commemorate him.
“The race really is a way for John’s spirit to live on,” Wasilewski said.
Wasilewski said only about 50 runners came when the race first began six years ago.
“One of the things that we pride ourselves on is being one of the largest off-campus student-run events,” Wasilewski said.
The race began at Recreation Park, located on Binghamton’s West Side.
Jared Krok, a member of the crew team and a junior majoring in biology, said The Brian Wolff Band played while the runners were coming to the finish line.
“The turnout was great,” Krok said. “There was a lot more people than last year, and there was a band. It was a great atmosphere.”
Student involvement is widely encouraged and is most effectively done by simply participating in the race, according to Wasilewski.
“The event is run by the BU Crew club, so we do get a lot of free volunteer labor from our team,” Wasilewski said. “But we do also have volunteers from campus that help us out a lot by doing anything, from working as a race marshal at one of the mile markers, to collecting race chips at the finish line, to helping with the children’s fun run.”
This year, volunteers came from the Student Volunteer Center and Alpha Phi Omega. Several corporate sponsorships, including Frito Lay, Sodexo and Hampton Inn and Suites, also attended.
Proceeds from the event were split between the Albany Airport Military Courtesy Room and BU Crew.
Wasilewski said that her feelings on this event are difficult to put into words.
“This race really is the embodiment of Binghamton Crew, and really is a great display of all of the teamwork, camaraderie and selflessness required on a rowing team,” Wasilewski said. “It is heartbreaking to think about if you suddenly lost someone who you spend every morning with, work out with and share a boat with, and this is what we try to remember every year as we put on the race.”
Nico Cicchetti, a member of crew and freshman majoring in organic chemistry, enjoyed being a part of the tradition.
“It’s cool to see the community come together for something with so much meaning to rowers at Binghamton,” Cicchetti said. “The 5K lets us honor someone who deserves to be honored.”
Connor Keupp, a sophomore majoring in mechanical engineering, is on the varsity men’s squad and is also a member of its 5K committee.
“The 5K is a very emotional experience for everyone involved,” Keupp said. “John was a true hero who gave his life for our country; he was a great man. Our team is as close as you can get to a family and losing someone that was a part of it is one of the last things any of us would want. I am honored to be a part of something this special.”