The proposed new track and field complex at Christian Brothers Academy, seen in this rendering, will feature an eight-lane track that incorporates a natural grass infield. Photo courtesy of CBA
The proposed new track and field complex at Christian Brothers Academy, seen in this rendering, will feature an eight-lane track that incorporates a natural grass infield. Photo courtesy of CBA

While roaming the Christian Brothers Academy campus, it is easy to spot Fleming Hall or Henderson Hall, named after cofounders Peter Fleming and John Henderson. It’s a little tougher, however, to notice who Sheehan Track is named after, as recognition for its namesake – third cofounder Dr. George Sheehan – is difficult to find.  

All that is about to change, as the Lincroft school is planning to build a new facility to recognize its youngest founding father.

“It’s clear when you read the history of the school that he was the energizer,” Christian Brother Frank Byrne, CBA president, said of Sheehan. “He was the youngest of the three [founders], and when it looked like the school might not happen because they couldn’t raise the initial funds, he was the one who said, ‘We are going to give it one more try before we throw in the towel.’ They raised the $400,000 required at the time in order to go forward with the campaign.” 

For years, Sheehan’s name adorned a small concrete plaque at the current track behind some pine trees. Now, 61 years later, CBA will build a new, $1.2 million track and field complex as part of the ongoing “Forever CBA: Securing Our Mission capital campaign.” The facility, which is still in the planning stages, will be adjacent to the baseball field and tennis courts on the lower campus and will maintain the Sheehan name. It will feature an eight-lane track that incorporates a natural grass infield and the most up-to-date safety and performance technology. There will also be enhanced spectator viewing, a new scoreboard and sound system, and dedicated equipment shed. 

Most notably, a life-sized statue of the late Dr. Sheehan in a running pose will be erected on the driveway that goes out to the track. It is being created by nationally renowned sculptor Brian Hanlon, who has crafted statues of notable sports figures such as Charles Barkley, Jim Brown, Jackie Robinson and Yogi Berra, among others.  Hanlon, who resides in the Diocese of Trenton, has also created religious statues that are featured in a number of parishes.

“I’ve seen the clay mock-up; it’s really fantastic,” Brother Frank said.  

The new complex will be highlighted at an informational gathering from 3 to 5 p.m. Oct. 18 at the school, behind McKenna Hall. Members of the Sheehan family will be on hand, as well as accomplished runners Tim McLoone and Elliot Denman. McLoone has been a Monmouth County philanthropy leader, and Denman is a veteran sportswriter for the Asbury Park Press who competed in the 50K race-walking event at the 1956 Olympics.

“We’re hoping people will like what they see,” Brother Frank said. 

It is the perfect honor for a man who helped bring recreational running into the national limelight when it started becoming popular in the 1970s. Sheehan, who died in 1993, was a cardiologist and author, writing seven books on running while penning a column for the Red Bank Register. He later wrote for the Asbury Park Press and Runner’s World magazine.  

Sheehan was also a man of faith, which is why he wanted to start a boys’ Catholic school in New Jersey along with Henderson and Fleming, who was his father-in-law. The dream came to fruition in 1959. 

“The motto we have here at the school, ‘Religio, Mores and Cultura’ [religion, morals, culture], came from the founders,” Brother Frank said. “They saw the need for an all-boys Catholic school in Monmouth County. Dr. Sheehan was big on Catholic education. Coming out of Manhattan College, he’d come out of the running tradition, a Catholic family and a Catholic education. Moving down here, it was an opportunity to establish the all-boys environment that was common in New York City.”  

Along with being a CBA founding father, Sheehan was father to 12 children – seven boys and five girls. Six of the seven sons ran track for at least one year at CBA, and the seventh ran at Rumson-Fair Haven. When girls track started at high schools in the mid-1970s, the two youngest daughters competed at Red Bank Catholic.   

Watching his children run rekindled the urge for a middle-aged Sheehan to lace up his shoes once again after competing in high school and college. 

“Most runners stop after college,” said his son Tim, a 1965 CBA graduate. “It really did spark his interest seeing my brother and I running.” 

Tim Sheehan is hoping the Oct. 18 event will generate some excitement for the new track complex among the CBA alumni and area running community.  

“He would have been humbled, and he would have been somewhat embarrassed,” Tim Sheehan said. “In 1962, when Sheehan Track was first dedicated, he was not well-known. By the time of his death, he was known globally. His books are still in print. Having gained some fame, I think he would be humbled but proud.” 

Both Tim Sheehan and Brother Frank, a 1975 grad who ran track for CBA, looked at Dr. Sheehan as a role model. Brother Frank said that when Sheehan ran, it aided him physically, mentally and spiritually. Tim Sheehan agreed.

“If you’re fit and running, you can sort of go on automatic pilot, and it gives your mind time to focus on other things. He was big on spirit, body, mind, integration in movement. He felt like your body was a holy thing. He was not a dichotomy between body and spirit. 

“He was more intellectual in his approach to the faith. He was a big reader of Chesterton and Catholic novelists and Catholic essays. The running gave him another spiritual outlet that was not intellectual. That was more an experience. And I do think to the end he had a strong faith,” Tim Sheehan said.  

Sheehan’s son believes that the new complex will be worthy of the nationally renowned athletes who perform on it – as CBA has been outstanding in track through over the years. “This,” he said, “is going to a facility that’s appropriate for the level of the track program they have at the school.”