Great Neck PAL Honors Chris McKenzie

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From left: Chris McKenzie’s daughter, Tina Bickerstaff; McKenzie; GNPAL Coach Howard Budd; McKenzie’s son Adam; McKenzie’s grandson Gordon Bickerstaff; McKenzie’s son Stuart; and GNPAL Director P.O. Jack Volpe

The Great Neck Police Activity League (GNPAL) recently honored Great Neck resident Chris McKenzie for her extraordinary years of service and ongoing commitment to the GNPAL track and field program.

Since 1973, McKenzie has been a volunteer, coach and mentor to generations of Great Neck residents who participated in GNPAL’s and PBC’s track and field programs. A native of England, McKenzie was one of her nation’s outstanding women runners, setting records from the quarter mile to the three mile. She was part of the Selsonia Ladies 3×880 relay team that set the world record in 1953.

In the early ’50s, the athlete met her late husband, Gordon McKenzie, a two-time American Olympian. Upon arriving in America, she found that women were banned from competing in any distance greater than 220 yards. She helped break these gender barriers and, at a race in Washington, DC, she ran carrying a sign that read: “If I can carry a baby for nine months, I can run 10 miles.”

Eventually, women were allowed to compete and McKenzie went on to be the first woman to run up Mt. Washington and one of the first women in the USA to compete in middle and long distances. She continued her passion and love of the sport through Masters competitions and coaching with her beloved late husband by her side.

The couple settled in Great Neck and had three children, Tina, Adam and Stuart. Adam is currently the track and cross country coach at Great Neck North High School. Since the spring track season kicked off, McKenzie can usually be found down at the Great Neck North Middle track lending Adam a hand with the North High track team or assisting Great Neck PAL’s track and field coach, Howard Budd.

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Sara Rietbroek is with the Great Neck Police Activity League and a writer for Great Neck Record.

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