John Zabrodsky stood in the middle of Baker Street at Bergman Park just before 9:30 Sunday morning and yelled out pre-race instructions for the Dan Feather Memorial 5K Run & Walk.
Once the group was lined up and ready, Dan's brother, Mel, fired the starter's gun and the more than 220 participants took off, continuing a Labor Day weekend tradition that is now 20 years old.
For the record, the race winners were Steven Battaglia for the men and Kylee Witchey-Clements for the women, but, in reality, the event was a time to reflect and celebrate the life of Dan Feather and the program - the Chautauqua Striders - that he co-founded in 1979.
Above, the field takes off for the 20th annual Dan Deather Memorial 5K. Below, from left, Mel Feather, Dan’s brother, fires the starter’s gun, the first male finisher was Steven Battaglia and the first female finisher was Kylee Witchey-Clements. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photos by Scott Kindberg
Feather, a Jamestown police officer, died in 1992 while training for a triathlon.
"I remember his initial statement when he went to Ron Graham (the Striders' other co-founder) and said, 'I'd rather run with these kids than after them,''' Mel Feather said. "That was the basis of getting the Striders started.
"Now look at this program.''
Since its inception, Chautauqua Striders has grown at a steady pace, developing programs to help youth realize and achieve their potential. Last year, more than 2,000 students and athletes were involved in the program's school- and community-based academic advocacy, mentoring and athletic programs.
Verna Feather said her husband's goal in starting the Striders was simple.
"His whole idea behind this was when he was out working as a police officer he'd see the kids around town not doing anything,'' she said. "He'd say, 'You know, they ought to have a focus.'''
One of those youngsters who was a beneficiary of Feather's vision was Zabrodsky, who was a track and field athlete from junior high school through college. In fact, he said he still owns one of the original T-shirts from the Striders' first year.
"I remember many times I was out for a run when I was a kid in high school and college,'' said Zabrodsky, who is a Striders board member, "and Dan would be out there - maybe even on duty - and always shouting out words of encouragement. I think he would think this was a fantastic event."
The 5K run and walk was actually started by the Jamestown Kendall Club - Jamestown police officer Tom Shea was the catalyst - in 1993 and then it was turned over to the Striders in 2000. But the mission to honor Feather's memory and enhance the programs offered by the organization he helped found has never changed. Just remembering Feather as a police officer, friend, husband and athlete is enough motivation.
A winner of multiple gold and silver medals at national police Olympics, a cyclist, runner and cross country skier, Feather always kept himself in tremendous shape, which reminded Zabrodsky of one of his favorite stories.
"Dan was on duty and there was a fellow on a motorcycle who had done something inappropriate,'' Zabrodsky said, "and Dan chased him down on foot and caught this guy.''
Years later, one of the T-shirts presented at a Feather Memorial race was a caricature of Feather running after a motorcycle.
"That's a true story,'' Zabrodsky said.