Remembering Ed Bowes ‘64: The Architect of the MC Cross Country Invitational

by, Pete Janny & Nicole Fitzsimmons, Sports Editor & News Editor

Manhattan College Athletics Hall of Famer Ed Bowes ‘64 passed away on July 31 at the age of 78, leaving behind an incredible legacy of coaching and commitment to cross country. Bowes was the subject of countless stories throughout his life as he emerged as a sporting legend at both Manhattan College and Bishop Loughlin High School. Cross country was his vehicle for giving back to others and radiating his goodness.

Bowes’ track career at Manhattan College dates from 1960 to 1964, according to The Tablet, a Catholic newspaper central to Queens and Brooklyn, where Bowes’ high school alma mater is located. At Manhattan, Bowes won the 1960 Intercollegiate Association of Amateur Athletes of America cross-country championship which marked his earliest achievement as a Jasper.

Before arriving in Riverdale, Bowes grew up in Brooklyn with dreams of making it big in the local cross country scene in New York City. His successful running career at Manhattan was a precursor to his lifelong commitment to the college, where he founded the Manhattan College Cross Country Invitational in 1973 and helped organize the event every year up until his passing. For 48 years running, excluding this past year’s cancellation due to COVID-19, the invitational has been a fixture in the cross country calendar by playing host to 40 intermediate to varsity level races. The one- day event draws nearly 10,000 high school runners who subject themselves to the grueling nature of the VCP Cross Country Course. For many of them, it’s the ultimate litmus test for finding out how they stack up against their peers, as well as showcasing themselves to college coaches. In essence, that was Bowes’ vision for the invitational from the start and it demonstrated how much he cared about future generations of runners.

“Ed Bowes was an iconic figure in New York City track and field, and a proud Manhattan College Jasper,” said Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Marianne Reilly ‘82 according to Go Jaspers. “I was blessed to have worked with him on the largest high school cross country meet in America, which he created and built over many decades. He will be sorely missed by Bishop Loughlin High School and his track family.”

After graduating from Manhattan, Bowes went on to teach and coach cross country at his alma mater, Bishop Loughlin High School, located in the Fort Greene section of Brooklyn. His career at Bishop Loughlin spanned 38 years and was highlighted by tremendous success throughout, including three Championship of America titles at the Penn

Relays, 12 CHSAA girls’ titles and four boys’ titles. Bowes coached a long line of runners all of whom benefited from having learned from him and his ways.

“He was just a really interesting, charismatic guy, you know, unlike any other coach,” Nikki Maxwell, a former runner for Bowes in the early 90s, told the Quadrangle. “And I mean, it’s so much that I guess inspired me to follow in his footsteps. So, once he retired from Loughlin, I actually assumed his teaching position and then I became the head cross country coach at the time, for many years and you know, just continued the Loughlin tradition.”

Bowes was also a firm believer that anyone could run at a high level, regardless of where you came from or gender stereotypes. He empowered his female runners like Maxwell to help them reach their potential. And in Maxwell’s case, she was fortunate enough to help carry the mantle that Bowes left behind by assuming his teaching and coaching duties at Loughlin for many years.

“He really instilled the fact that being a girl has nothing to do with being tough,” Maxwell said. “So much of what he’s taught me I practice today.”

“Ed Bowes was an iconic figure in New York City track and field, and a proud Manhattan College Jasper.” GOJASPERS / COURTESY

Some have even compared Bowes’ legacy to Jack Curran, a CHSAA icon who coached boys’ basketball at Archbishop Molloy and became the all-time winningest coach in New York State basketball history. Regardless of the accuracy of that comparison, Bowes’ is right up there among the greats and is part of the proud pipeline of coaches to come out of Manhattan College alongside former St. Francis Prep basketball coach Tim Leary ‘67 and former Manhattan men’s basketball coach Jack Powers ‘58 .

“Ed was a dedicated student-athlete who became a fiery young coach,” Centrowitz said of his mentor, Bowes, who pushed him to set the long-standing New York state mile record of 4:02.7 in 1973. “He would inspire other coaches to be more progressive, and create a friendly intensity. He pumped energy in the CHSAA, not just into Bishop Loughlin, but into all schools, by the way he inspired us to compete against each other. I was very sad to hear of Ed’s passing, but I am looking on the bright side today and thinking of all the people that loved him, and all the people he inspired.”

The memory that might best sum up Bowes’ larger than life persona goes back to 1972 and the third ever New York City marathon. Not only did Bowes run in the marathon, but he was in first place after 23 miles, an impressive feat considering his focus was more on coaching than running by that point. As has been famously told before, Bowes ended up collapsing before he could finish the race and was driven away in an ambulance. Almost ironically, it seemed like Bowes still came away a winner in that moment too, because no trip to the emergency room was going to take away what he had achieved or what he was destined to accomplish for cross country in the ensuing decades.

Bowes’ coaching career at Bishop Loughlin came to a close in 2003, but from there he still remained the face of the Manhattan College Cross Country Invitational. Unbeknownst to attendees at the time, his bittersweet farewell came at the 2019 invitational where was given one final memorial called “Ed Bowes Way,” the final stretch of the VCP course leading to the finish line. Although nearing the end of his life, merely his presence at the event set the tone for the 47th installment of the race and was a fitting close to a career that has brought him to six different Hall of Fames.

“I love cross country,” Bowes said at the 2019 invitational, according to Go Jaspers. “And to see so many kids here…it makes me feel good…I never thought [the meet] would grow like this.”

Scholarship funds have been created in honor of Bowes both at Manhattan and Loughlin. The fund at Loughlin is called the Ed Bowes Endowed Scholarship and donations can be mailed to Bishop Loughlin H.S., 357 Clermont Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11238. The Manhattan fund was established by alums after Bowes’ passing and can be supported online through the “Give Now” section on the college’s website, or by sending a check to the Manhattan College Alumni Office.