Hallowed Ground: Van Cortlandt Park

Fueled by Saucony

It’s summertime, when destinations are planed to tropical locals, and vacations are plotted around fun times at the beach or by the lake.

Forget that!

Cross-country season is right around the corner, and that’s what we’ve got on the brain. Join us in or weekly mind wander as we long for the crisp temperatures and falling leaves of autumn when races contested on some of the most-famous, most-notorious cross-country courses in America.

Course: Van Cortlandt Park

Location: Bronx, N.Y.

Usage: College and high school

History:  Van Cortlandt Park became a New York City mark in 1888 when the land was sold to the city by the Van Cortlandt family, who were wealthy Dutch settlers. In 1776, after the Battle of Long Island, Augustus Van Cortlandt, the city’s recording clerk, hid the plans to the city in a vault buried on the land. Van Cortland is is the fourth-largest park in New York (trumping Manhattan’s Central Park). The park’s cross-country course opened in 1913. 

Pop-culture significance: Site of the gang summit at the opening of the 1979 cult film The Warriors. In 2002, the Rolling Stones took off from the course in a yellow blimp to promote their Licks world tour.

Famous alumni: Alan Webb, South Lakes High, Va. (12:18.8), Alberto Salazar, Wayland High, Mass. (12:22.5), Marty Liquori, Essex Catholic, N.J. (12:23.2), Matt Centrowitz, Power Memorial, N.Y. (12:24.5), John Gregorek, St. Anthony’s L.I. (12:31.0).

Course records (4-K): Boys: 11:55.39 – Edward Cheserek, St. Benedict’s Prep, NJ, 2011. Girls: 13:55.27 – Carly Seymour, Central Cambria, Pa., 2007.

What makes it great: History and terrain.

The course begins on “The Flats,” also known as the “Parade Ground.” It’s a wide open area first inhabited by the Wiechquaeskeck tribe of the Lenape nation and later used for military exercises.

From there, runners pass single-file through “The Cowpath,” a narrow, tree-flanked chute, up the short, sharp “Freshman Hill,” and then over “Runners Bridge,” which was erected when the park was bisected by the creation of the Henry Hudson Parkway.   

Now ¾ mile in, runners head for the “Back Hills,” which is a challenging area on the other side of the bridge. High school racers will loop back out of the hills and cross the bridge again, leaving about half a mile to the finish.

College runners, covering 8-K, will then embark over dreaded “Cemetery Hill,” the notorious rise adjacent to the Van Cortlandt family burial plot. Both high school and collegiate races finish back on “The Flats.”

Potent Quotable: “Van Cortlandt was the ultimate. Kids would come from Massachusetts and Maryland. The point was, if you were a star in any state, you came to Vannie like a gunslinger. Guys came ready for war.” – 1976, 1980 Olympian Matt Cetrowitz to The New York Times, 2011.


Shelby Houlihan Breaks American 5000m Record

Shelby Houlihan Wins Her 7th Title In the Past 2 Years

Shelby Houlihan’s meteoric 2018 now includes an American record. 

The 2018 AAU Junior Olympic Games Jumps Preview

2018 AAU Junior Olympic Games LIVE On FloTrack

One of the top matchups in the jumps will take place in the girls 15-16-year-old division. Mt. Airy's (PA) Tia Taylor is the defending champion in the 14-year-old division and is looking to earn her second straight gold with the age-up.

Chepkoech, Frerichs Break WR/AR In Epic Steeple Race; Monaco Recap

Beatrice Chepkoech took apart one of the best women's steeplechase fields ever assembled, chopping more than eight seconds off the world record to run 8:44.33 at Friday's Diamond League in Monaco. 

London Confidence Picks: Someone Breaks 13 In The 5K, Kirani Comes Back

On The Run: The Coaching Carousel

Track fans have a back-to-back Diamond League meets this week, including a two-day affair in London. It’s the last week before the circuit takes a break for the European Championships and then ramps up again for the Diamond League finals. 

Full List Of AAU Champions Defending Their Title In 2018

2018 AAU Junior Olympic Games LIVE On FloTrack

138 2017 AAU individual champions will attempt to defend their titles next weekend. Can they pull it off?

New Mexico To Reduce Men's XC/Track Roster Spots

Today the University of New Mexico Board of Regents approved via a 6-0 vote the reduction of roster spots for the men's cross country and track and field program as well as the cutting of four sports (men's soccer, men's/women's skiing and women's beach volleyball) due to Title IX requirements and budget cuts.

Chris Fox Leaves Syracuse For Pro Opportunity

Syracuse announced on Thursday that head cross country and track and field coach, Chris Fox is leaving collegiate coaching to “pursue opportunities in the professional ranks.”

World/American Records In Play At Monaco Diamond League

Zurich and Brussels have the distinction of being called the Diamond League final, but Monaco typically ends the year as one of the best meets of the season. The track is quick, the fields are packed, and the meet takes place at a time in the year when athletes are sharp but not yet worn down. 

Katelyn Tuohy To Be Featured On Sports Illustrated Cover

Join PRO Now to Get Unlimited Access to FloTrack!

Join Now

Already a PRO Member? Log In

Katelyn Tuohy 9:47 3200m, National High School Record

There has been little Katelyn Tuohy hasn't done, accomplished, absolutely crushed in the last year-plus.

Lananna Steps Down As TrackTown USA President

Vin Lananna has stepped down as TrackTown USA President.