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Running by Budd Bailey: This idea fell right into their laps

There are many runners in Western New York who go for miles and miles every month without ever setting foot on a track. That’s peculiar in the sense that most of running’s history has centered on athletes going around an oval, either indoors or outdoors.

The Daemen College athletic department hopes to put runners back in a traditional setting.

The school will be staging the 2016 Summer Track Series on four consecutive Thursdays in July, starting on Thursday night. Registration at Sweet Home High School will take place at 5:30 p.m., and the races will begin at 6:15 p.m.

It will be relatively easy to pick out the track rookies at these competitions. They’ll be the ones checking the ground for potholes out of force of habit.

“Running is pretty much running,” said Paul Lagno, the head track and field/cross country coach at Daemen. “A track is controlled, and it’s flat. But it’s no different than running on the street or a treadmill.

“Still, it’s nice to have people take part in a track setting. It’s motivates you to run quicker.”

Lagno can’t remember who gets the credit for coming up with the idea for a series of races, although both he and assistant track/cross-country coach Judy Arlington were all for it as the plan came together.

“We were kicking around ideas one day,” Lagno said. “Other cities do it. Albany, where I went to college, had a similar program. It was more of a social thing. They came out and ran races. Rochester does it too. I’ve been kind of thinking about it. There are lots of road races but there’s no track series.”

Coaches are always coming up with ideas, and athletic directors often are the people that have to say “no” to them. Lagno and Arlington had an advantage in that department. Bridget Niland, the AD at Daemen, set several school records and won conference championships during her running career at the University at Buffalo. She is a member of the UB Athletics Hall of Fame.

“She’s been all over it from day one,” Lagno said. “It’s been interesting trying to get it off the ground. She’s been around running, and she said there used to be a track series like this back in the day. But there’s been nothing like it in a decade. She’s pretty excited about it.”

The four meets will be held at Sweet Home High School, as Brian Lombardo – a coach for the Panthers – also embraced the concept.

The format is simple. Each night will have a one-mile run, two-mile run, 100-meter dash, 200-meter dash, 400-meter dash, 800-meter run, and 4x400-meter relay race for men and women. The entry fee is $10, no matter how many events are run. Therefore, if the next Bo Jackson shows up and wants to race seven times in a night, he’s welcome to try. A 100-meter dash for kids also will take place.

One of the events each week will be designated as the “Premier Event of the Night.”

“We’re going to have a different race spotlighted each week,” Lagno said. “One week it might be the 100, and the next it might be 800. The top three male and female finishers will earn prizes from Runner’s Roost.”

First Niagara has signed on as a sponsor and will cover some of the costs.

Lagno said he’s received plenty of questions and emails since the series was announced in June. The track meets certainly can’t hurt Daemen’s attempts to improve its track and cross country programs. The Wildcats have made progress and this spring sent two athletes - Mackenzie Donahue and Amy Trabert – to the Penn Relays Carnival.

It’s easy to expect Arlington to take part in the series. She’s one of the best runners in Western New York history, an eight-time All-American at Cortland who helped her team win two national championships. Arlington won a 5K race in Lockport in May, finishing in 20 minutes, 51 seconds.

As for Lagno, he might give it the old college try at some point.

“I might hop in for the mile,” he said. “It’s been a while since I was competitive.”

Race calendar

• Dick Bessel Independence Day Run, 2.3 miles, 2255 Baseline Road, Grand Island, 9 a.m. Monday, July 4, 773-9680.

• Depew-Lancaster Boys & Girls Club 10K, 5440 Broadway, Lancaster, 9 a.m. Monday, July 4, 683-1485.

• Independence Day 5K, Centennial Park, Batavia, 9 a.m. Monday, July 4, (585) 356-7674.

• Loughran’s Alumni Cup 5K Run, 4543 Main St., Snyder, 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 6, 863-4747

• Hump Day Mile, 1 mile, 40 S. Grove St., East Aurora, 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 6.

• Tuscarora Nation 10K Run, 2015 Mount Hope Road, Lewiston, 9 a.m. Saturday, July 9, 940-0582.

• St. Amelia Christmas in July 5K, 210 St. Amelia Drive, Tonawanda, 9 a.m. Saturday, July 9, 491-8269.

• Falconer Track Club Trail Series, 3 miles, 525 Falconer St., Jamestown, 6 p.m. Sunday, July 10.

email: bbailey@buffnews.com