Mark Finucane

Mark Finucane

Track, Cross Country Champion

The early 1970s were a golden age in several high school sports in Western New York, and this was particularly true in cross-country and track. Althought the newspapers of that era overflowed with tales of epic meets and a galaxy of stars, no individual star outshone that of South Buffalo’s Mark Finucane.

After graduation from St. Martin’s school, Mark made his mark at St. Francis High School in Athol Springs. Finucane achieved All-Catholic status in cross-country in the Catholic Smith League as a freshman, and won the varsity All-Catholic meet the next three years running. Mark was recognized as All-Western New York in 1772 and 1973, and All-New York State in 1973. As a senior in 1973, he set a league course record time at Delaware Park Lake which stands to this day.

A terror on the track as well, Mark was Smith League All-Catholic Champion in the two-mile (1972) and mile (1972 and 1973), establishing Catholic League records in both events (the two-mile record time of 9:12.4 still stands).

The greater distances (5,000 and 10,000 meters) faced by collegiate cross country runners proved no match for Finucane’s abilities. Despite competition which included many runners of Olympic caliber, both at his native East Tennessee State and elsewhere in his conference, Mark was All-Ohio Valley Conference and All Tennessee State Intercollegiate all four years at East Tennessee State, and Conference runner of the year in 1977. He also won a Tennessee State Intercollegiate Championship in 1975.

While distance running would appear the ultimate individual sport, members of a team rely heavily on teammates, perhaps more than in any other sport, for support through the pain and isolation. Accordingly, while Finucane has achieved individual honors too numerous to recount in this space, (including the fastest marathon time ever for a Buffalo native with a 2:11:55 in the 1984 Houston marathon) he counts as his most cherished memories those seasons, and meets, when he and his teammates together rose to momentous occasions. His St. Francis Red Raiders were undefeated league and All-Catholic meets Champs in cross-country and track in 1972 and 1973; he and his East Tennessee State teammates won numerous team titles during his stay, set an NCAA record for lowest team score in a championship meet that still stands, and were a key factor in East Tennessee’s ranking as the fourth-best collegiate cross-country program in the nation for the 1970s.

While Mark Finucane may eventually be joined by some of his contemporaries in the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame, he is an altogether appropriate frontrunner for his sport as the first such inductee.