By Keith Mills
Once again the Baltimore road racing community and some of its finest former high school athletes came out to support a wonderful man and an equally wonderful cause.
The Fiesta 5K fun run and walk was held May 1 at M&T Bank Stadium. It was again chaired by O.J. Brigance, former Ravens linebacker and special teams leader and now the team's inspiring director of player development, while raising money and awareness for the Robert Packard Center for ALS Research at Johns Hopkins.
Brigance, who played on both the Ravens’ 2000 Super Bowl championship team and the Baltimore Stallions’ Canadian Football League Grey Cup championship squad in 1995, was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease) in 2007. This was the fourth Fiesta 5K in his honor, and it always includes enormous support from the Ravens, the University of Maryland men's basketball team, and many current and former area high school athletes who want to support the cause.
"We feel honored to be here," said St. Frances Academy graduate Sean Mosley, who is finishing up his sophomore year at the University of Maryland after helping the Terps earn a share of the ACC regular season championship with a 13-3 record. Maryland assistant coach Keith Booth, a 1993 Dunbar High graduate, and strength and conditioning coach Paul Ricci brought Mosley and eight of his Maryland teammates to M&T Bank Stadium to run the race.
Ricci joined the Maryland program two years ago after spending eight years as assistant strength coach with the Ravens. He is good friends with Brigance and his wife Chanda and was with the Ravens when Brigance made the tackle on the opening kickoff of Super Bowl XXXV.
Maryland’s presence was a huge boost for the race organizers.
"This is an extremely important event," said Dino Gregory, who graduated from Mount St. Joe in 2007 after helping coach Pat Clatchey's Gaels win Catholic League championships in 2004 and 2006. "It's really great to come home and be a part of this. Sean and I both grew up in Baltimore, and to come back and help in the fight against ALS is something we had to do."
"We are all well aware of the fight O.J. Brigance is putting up," said Mosley, one of the most decorated high school players ever to come out of the Baltimore area after helping St. Frances win the 2005 and 2008 Catholic League championships, "and we're proud to be here with the Ravens, doing what we can to find a cure for ALS."
Adrian Bowie, Maryland's junior guard from Montrose Christian High in Rockville, ran the 3.1 miles in 23 minutes and 44 seconds to lead the Maryland players across the finish line. He was followed by sophomore Ersin Levent of Landon Prep (25:01), Gregory (25:35), junior David Pearman, the Oakland Mills High athlete of the year in 2007 (26:14), senior Eric Hayes of Potomac High in Woodbridge, Va. (26:14), junior Cliff Tucker (26:29), Mosley (27:53), freshman Jordan Williams (27:53) and James Padgett (28:47).
The Ravens were also well represented, making up just a part of what is now called the Brigance Brigade, a group of family and friends supporting O.J. in his fight against ALS. General manager Ozzie Newsome and president Dick Cass led an army of front office personnel including Pat Moriarty, vice president of administration; Kevin Byrne, VP of public and community relations; Eric DeCosta, director of player personnel; and Harry Swayne, Brigance's partner in the Ravens’ player development office.
Meanwhile, virtually every member of John Harbaugh's coaching staff was on hand along with many players, including Chris Chester, Matt Birk, Matt Katula and new defensive tackle Cory Redding. DeCosta, Cass, Moriarty and assistant secondary coach Roy Anderson ran the race with DeCosta posting a strong time of 21:18. Karen McGee, a member of the team's public relations staff, ran an equally impressive 24:57.
Cass and Harbaugh kicked off the event with Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Dr. Jeff Rothstein, medical director of the Robert Packard Center.
"None of what we do for ALS research is possible without you," Rothstein told the crowd of more than 1,600 runners, walkers, family and friends. "Many of you may not realize there was a person behind the name of the Robert Packard Center for ALS Research. Bob Packard was a highly successful investment banker and venture capitalist in San Francisco who was diagnosed with ALS in 1999 and passed away in 2000.
"It was the shared vision of Bob Packard and his family and friends across the country that helped us organize the ALS Center at Johns Hopkins into the world's leading ALS research center."
"O.J. Brigance remains a big part of everything we do," said Harbaugh. "He remains a huge inspiration to all of us and the Ravens are really honored to be a part of this."
More than $215,000 was raised at the event, including $16,000 from the family and friends of Zoey Bouchelle. Bouchelle was an All-American high school soccer player at Notre Dame Prep in Towson, before going on to earn All-Big 10 and Academic All-American honors at Penn State. Bouchelle graduated from the Nittany Lions after the 2008 soccer season. Nearly a dozen of her former teammates at Penn State made the drive down to M&T Bank to run in the race in honor of Brigance and Bouchelle's father.
Dr. Bill Bouchelle lost his battle against ALS two years ago at the age of 63. Bill's wife Zoe and their children -- Zoey, Julia and Reed -- have remained active in the fight against ALS since his death.
Reed Bouchelle, now 26 years old, was an All-MIAA A Conference lacrosse player at St. Paul's who went on to play at the University of Pennsylvania. He ran the race in 21:01. Julia, a 19-year-old sophomore soccer player at Boston College, was an outstanding player at Notre Dame Prep as well.
Two of Zoey Bouchelle's teammates on the Penn State soccer team finished first and second in the overall women's race. Maddy Evans of Abington High in Philadelphia won the race in 21:09, six seconds faster than teammate Jackie Hakes, who went to Mead High in Spokane, Wash.
Brian Lang, a former track standout at the University of Pennsylvania, won the men’s race. Lang now lives in Baltimore but attended St. Peter's Prep in New Jersey, where he was the school's valedictorian and an all-conference runner. Lang finished first in 17:02, 30 seconds faster than 24-year-old Craig Lebro of Columbia.
Lebro went to Oakland Mills High, where he ran for longtime coach Phil Lang and his wife Jill, both members of the Howard County Striders Hall of Fame. Lebro, who also ran at the University of Delaware, finished in 17:32.
Posted May 3, 2010