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Alumni swim team races in honor of College's Sept. 11 victims

Frank, Mike, Len, Michele, Pat and Bob On Sunday, June 23, top swimmers from around the country competed in the 21st annual Manhattan Island Marathon Swim, a 28.5 mile open water event through the East, Harlem and Hudson rivers. Among those competing was a relay team composed of Holy Cross alumni Michael Toner '63, Bob Somma '66, Michele Intermont '89, Patrick Dietz '66, Frank Bongiorno '65 and Leonard Conti '60. Toner, who coordinated the team, explains that this “adventure” was three years in the making; he credits the College's swim coach, Barry Parenteau, with encouraging the team, and providing participants with Holy Cross T-shirts and bathing caps. And that was just the beginning of Crusader support. Escort boat fees were donated by Joe Hegenbart '65 and Phil Dunne '63 and the Holy Cross Club of Long Island. Jack McManus '60 donated the kayak fee. Pete Lilly '60 pitched in for supplies.

In a tribute to alumni killed in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, members of the team wore the name of a lost alumnus/a on their bathing caps. Toner, who lost two members of his extended family on Sept. 11, swam in tribute to Todd Isaac '94 and Neilie Heffernan Casey '90. Somma swam in honor of Ted Brennan '86; Intermont in honor of Tom Burke '85; Conti in honor of John Farrell '91; Bongiorno in honor of John Ryan '78. Dietz swam in honor of Beth Quigley '97, with whom Dietz's daughter, Kate Lambert '97, spent her junior year abroad, in Spain.

Two nights before the marathon, the team received a memorable send-off when Chris Matthews '67 sent best wishes on his MSNBC talk show, Hardball. The race began at 6:20 a.m. Alumni and family members lined the waterways and manned tour boats to cheer on the team. The final swimmer crossed the South Cove finish line to mark the team's time at 8 hours, 48 minutes and 28 seconds. The Holy Cross team placed third in the six-person relay division.

“These rivers,” says Toner, “will never look the same.”


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