By ANTHONY GABBIANELLI Staff Writer
Published The Progress May 10, 2023
CALDWELL – Runners arrived at the Mount St. Dominic Academy campus prepared to traverse the many hills and pathways along the route of the Meghan Doyle '05K run on Saturday, May 6.
The cloudless morning ushered the Ninth Annual 5K run in honor of alumni Meghan Doyle, who graduated from Mount St. Dominic Academy (MSDA) in 2005. Doyle passed away from a brief and sudden illness in 2013.
More than 200 runners joined the '05K on campus while about 40 participated virtually from across the country, Alumni Director Kate Sullivan said.
Meghan’s mother, Ginny Needham-Doyle, helps coordinate the race each year with MSDA and also helped hold up the finish line for runners who were completing the race on Saturday.
“We asked if people could make donations in (Meghan’s) name to the school, particularly for financial assistance,” Needham-Doyle said. “When she came here, there was no financial assistance and I had worked at a lot of male schools and they have big financial assistance programs.”
The Meghan Doyle '05K is a charity fundraising event that continues to enable young women across New Jersey to attend the Catholic high school. The run has raised about $250,000 for the financial assistance program, according to Sullivan, including this year.
“It helps diversify our student base,” Sullivan said. “It brings in students who would have never been able to afford to come here to the mountain and enjoy our community. It’s a wonderful way to honor Meghan and top create an even more robust student body. We have amazing students here.”
Helping Those In Need
The idea for the run came from Meghan herself, according to her mother. Needham-Doyle found a list that Meghan had written back in 2013 of things she wanted to accomplish, which included running a 5K.
“She also wanted to get more involved at the school as an alumna,” Needham-Doyle said. “She wasn’t a runner, but she was the manager of the softball and swim team. She was in the campus ministry and a peer leader.”
The racetrack has been modified over the last nine years, according to Sullivan. The race starts off on Ryerson Avenue. The MSDA softball team helps hand out water at stations throughout the course, as is tradition in the '05K.
“We were able to work with the USA Track and Field to redesign the course to have the start and finish lines right here on campus which makes it really easy for the runners,” Sullivan said. “It’s a beautiful tree line course through Caldwell and Essex Fells and we work with the West Essex First Aid Squad to keep the runners safe.”
Meghan graduated and went to college at Fairfield University in Fairfield, Conn. The university also gives out an award in her name to students in the student government.
Throughout the nine years of the event, Needham-Doyle said she has seen the same faces come to support the family and the school. Some of Meghan’s friends who attended the first '05K now come with their kids and strollers.
The Fun Run was also held prior to the 5K race, where children under 10 years old could run around the circle in front of the school building and win ribbons. Some of the kids from the Doyle family ran in that race, as well.
The 5K also provides a virtual run, which has been around since 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. The virtual run has runners record their times and distances for the five days leading up to the 5K on Saturday, whether it be on a treadmill or an outdoor run, Sullivan said.
This was actually an idea that the Doyle family had before everything shut down during the pandemic.
“The former president of (MSDA) had been visiting alumni down in Florida and they wanted to run in the 5K. They said, ‘If you could start a virtual run, that would be great,’” Needham-Doyle said.
“So we talked to our race timer and asked if we could do that and he said ‘yes.’ That was probably in January of 2020 and then Covid came creeping in. We were probably one of the first races to convert completely virtual.”
More than 450 runners participated in the original virtual run that year, with almost every U.S. state represented and some countries in Europe, according to Needham-Doyle. The Doyles had a map of the country and colored in each state pink when a runner registered from one.
Meghan’s Legacy At Mount St. Dominic
Christopher Hampton, the head of MSDA, said the Doyle family and especially Ginny, have helped him and the school throughout the years and the school praises them for their efforts.
“(Ginny) is an iconic parent volunteer,” Hampton said. “She actually helped me in my office when I first took over a year ago so I got to know her then really well. A year after Meghan had passed away, (Ginny) had wanted to keep her legacy going by doing something. This is how it started and it’s been going on nine years now.”
The Doyle family’s ability to turn their sorrow and trauma into something that benefits the school and to keep her name alive forever was very admirable for Hampton.
Hampton said Sullivan helping encourage alumni to join and support the run is something he is very grateful for, as well.
“(If Meghan was here) she would be embarrassed,” Needham-Doyle laughed. “She would be embarrassed, but she would love it.
“Last Friday, we stood outside the entrance of the school where the kids get dropped off and we stretched the finish line ribbon across the railings and we told the students to break through the ribbons,” she continued. “We had cowbells and everything and I swear I heard Meghan say to me, ‘you are so weird.’”
Kyle Price of Milltown was the overall winner of the 5K, finishing in just over 17 minutes. He was followed by Edgar Aguilar, who finished with a time of 18 minutes and 28 seconds.
The women’s field was led by Aguilar’s sister, Denisse, who finished in a little over 21 minutes.
Contact Anthony Gabbianelli at email@example.com
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