By Anthony Bosco
Leo Nicholas, executive director of the College Point Road Runners Track Club, announced this week that the club has canceled the 21st Annual Officer Gabe Vitale Memorial 5K, which was to be run this weekend at McNeil Park.
The race honors a former police officer out of the 109th Precinct, who was killed in the line of duty in December 1980.
“I didn’t think it would be appropriate to have it,” said Nicholas, citing the recent terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington DC. “There are a couple of firemen from the neighborhood still missing, one of whom, Mike Carlo, ran for us before he joined the fire department. What else can you say.”
The annual 3.1-mile event, which was to start near 119th Street and Poppenhusen Avenue, next to McNeil Park and snake through the streets of College Point and the park itself, will not be rescheduled this year, Nicholas said, but will continue in 2002.
One of the reasons Nicholas canceled the race, he said, so as not to put any pressure on the Police Dept., which has historically come out in droves to participate in the event.
“The police department is working 16 hours to day,” said Nicholas, 62 and a College Point resident. “The last thing they want to do is participate in something as a fun thing. I’m sure in their time off they want to be with their family. Even though its a memorial.”
The proceeds of the race, Nicholas said, are usually divided among different area charities, including the CPRRTC age group program. Nicholas said he received approval from the Vitale family to cancel the race this year.
“We discussed it with the family,” he said. “They said it was up to me. I just had a feeling no one was up for this.”
A perpetual memorial cup, donated by the Vitale family, was to be presented to the first place police team representing the winning precinct. A team is comprised of three members from one precinct. The race also draws hundreds of runners from all over the tri-state area, including former Tommy Nohilly, a College Point native, who competed three times at the Olympic Trials.
Reach Sports Editor Anthony Bosco by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 130.