The large trophies that are so much a part of the William F. Eddy Jr. Memorial Track and Field Meet will have to wait until next May to find their homes.
Like the rest of the events that traditionally highlight the Section II spring sports season, the northeast showcase for runners, throwers and jumpers that was to be held Saturday at Schenectady High School was taken away in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
The rich history of the decades-old track and field carnival known today as the Eddy Meet, though, will never go away.
“I remember Todd Orvis running the 1,600 in 1989, and Jen Kramer setting the meet 1,500 record in 2000 at Union, but the best from Colonie was Kyle Plante,” said Frank Myers, who began bringing his Colonie teams to the Eddy Meet in his first year coaching at the school in 1970. “She ran a 52.6 anchor leg and came from behind to beat Uniondale in the 4×4. She was so fabulous. She would run through a wall for you.”
Plante etched her name in Eddy Meet lore that sunny May afternoon in 2012 on the Schenectady High School track, when her performance included three victories and a meet-record 54.43 in the 400 before she unofficially blew it away with her blazing relay split.
That same 2012 meet also saw Izaiah Brown of Amsterdam set a state freshman record with a winning 47.80 in the 400. He won that race three more times, chalked up 12 Eddy Meet titles by the time he was through, and was four times named its outstanding male competitor.
“The fun is watching not just your kids, but all of the other kids, like Mia D’Ambrosio and the Saratoga girls,” Myers said.
From the meet’s inception in 1941 through 1982, only boys competed. That changed in 1983 with the introduction of the girls’ 800 run, and more events were added leading up to 1989, when a full schedule of girls’ competitions were first held.
“It was one race [in 1983]. I think there were eight girls, and they did it up nice,” said retired Daily Gazette sportswriter and editor Rick Stellrecht. “Pete MacKay was in charge at that time, and he handed each of the runners a rose.”
Mary Pat Hickey of Clarence made meet history when she beat out Rhonda Phillips of Mont Pleasant in that inaugural 800. Phillips won the race the following year when Hickey placed third, one of the numerous victories chalked up by Schenectady School District Athletic Hall of Fame honoree.
“She [Phillips] had it in her mind that she was going to get revenge,” said Stellrecht, who attended 50 consecutive Eddy Meets beginning in 1967 when he was a high school sophomore at Mohonasen. “She made a move early in the race and took charge.”
Some athletes received their trophies in 1972 from Jesse Owens, who, at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, won four gold medals while Adolph Hitler seethed.
“They brought him up to promote the meet,” Stellrecht recalled. “He wore a dress suit and a trench coat. It was a rainy day and he handed out awards. He was a legend, and I can say I shook his hand.”
A year later, Power Memorial distance star and future Olympian Matt Centrowitz came to the Eddy Meet eyeing a sub-four minute mile.
“He was bound and determined to do it. Only three high school kids had done it at that time,” Stellrecht said. “He went the first quarter in 57 seconds and was 2:00.05 at the half. He was at 3:06 after the third lap and everyone knew then it wasn’t going to happen, but he gave the fans a thrill.”
Centrowitz set a meet record in 4:10.6, and it lasted until 2007, when Brian Rhodes-Devey of Guilderland won the mile in 4:09.92.
“The competition is huge,” Eddy Meet director Brad Carlton said. “We always have so many great athletes coming from out of the area. We’re trying to get even more.”
Before Bob Beamon became world-known for his Olympic exploits, the senior from Jamaica High was winning the Eddy Meet long jump at 22-11 3/4 and the triple jump with a meet- record 47-3 in 1965. Beamon would set a world record in the long jump at the 1968 Mexico City Games when he covered 29-2 1/2, and that record lasted 23 years.
“That was talked about for years and years,” Stellrecht said. “Some thought it [world record] would never be broken again. It’s amazing what some of these people have done.”
Larry James of White Plains, who won a pair of Eddy Meet 180-yard low hurdle titles in 1965 and 1966, joined Beamon as an Olympic champion in 1968 in the 1,600 relay.
The Eddy Meet’s first Olympian? That was Irving “Moon” Mondshein of Boys High who, in 1941, placed third in the high jump and fourth in the long jump, yet seven years later found himself in London competing in the decathlon with teammate and two-time gold medalist Bob Mathias.
The Eddy Meet’s next Olympian? Who knows. Maybe we’ll see them next year with one of those big trophies in tow.
“The athletes love the trophies,” Carlton said. “All we’ve got to do is replace the year on the plates.”
That first Eddy Meet was staged at Mont Pleasant High School, and future events took place there, at Linton High School, Niskayuna High School and Union College before the carnival found its most recent home at Schenectady High School in 2011. Nott Terrace was crowned the first team champion under coach Bill Eddy, who would serve as the meet director for four decades before MacKay took over, and was in the first class inducted into the SCSD Athletic Hall of Fame in 1998.
Other significant names associated with the Eddy Meet include Nott Terrace grad Jack Meader, a standout runner in his day who served as the meet’s announcer for well over five decades, and Schenectady Police Benevolent Association president William Shirkey, who, along with his executive board in 1940, pitched the idea of a local meet to his membership. The Schenectady Police Benevolent Association has sponsored the meet ever since then.
THE FIRST ONE
Thirty-five schools with representatives from New York City, Long Island, New Jersey, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., converged at the spruced up Mont Pleasant High School facility on May 31, 1941, for the first Eddy Meet, which was known then and up until 1968 as the Schenectady Interscholastic Sports Carnival, but was sometimes referred to as the Schenectady Policeman’s Sports Carnival, the Schenectady Sports Carnival, the Police Meet or the PBA Field Day.
Local winners included Vernon Hartley of Nott Terrace in the mile run, Nott Terrace in the 480-yard low hurdle shuttle relay, Mont Pleasant in the 2-mile relay, and Philip Schuyler in the Class B 880-yard relay.
Just before that relay, fans were given an exhibition of bicycle racing which included, according to a Schenectady Gazette account, the oldest bike in the world.
Nott Terrace won the first of its 10 Eddy Meet team titles with 19 1/2 points, while coach Norm Kitching’s Mont Pleasant squad had 17 and Boys High of Brooklyn had 13.
“Visiting coaches expressed keen delight at the smoothness with which the meet was run off,” the Schenectady Gazette story read.
The meet was renamed the William F. Eddy Jr. Memorial Track and Field Meet in 1969 in memory of Bill Eddy’s son, a former Nott Terrace runner who died in an auto accident.
The 29th edition of the meet that spring had 1,173 entrants and a winners list that included Mont Pleasant’s Tony Delgado in the triple jump and Joe Zelezniak in the shot put, John Gallagher of Niskayuna in the high hurdles and Tom Shiland of Cambridge in the 2-mile run. Shiland set a meet record (9:13.5) after he hitchhiked from his home town to Union College so he could compete.
White Plains won the team title, its seventh in a 10-year stretch.
Just last year, Tapestry Charter School seventh-grader Jada Kenner tied the 200-meter world age group record for 12-year-olds with a winning 23.72. She took down the 200 meet record of 23.98 that Kyle Plante of Colonie ran in 2012, and, with an 11.91 in the 100, Kenner also broke the meet record of 11.96 that Keyon Soley of Uniondale ran in 1997.
A little more on the 2012 Eddy Meet. Just a few minutes after Kyle Plante went 23.98 in the 200 for a meet record and all-time area best, Joe Carr of Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake duplicated her feat by winning the boys’ 200 in 21.33 to notch a meet record and establish an all-time Section II best.
Kelsey Chmiel of Saratoga Springs set a national sophomore record and meet record in 2017 with a 9:18.09 in the 3,000 run, an event she won four times. As a freshman Chmiel set the meet record in winning the 1,500 in 4:23.81.
Eight was enough for the Albany boys in 2009. With that number of athletes, the Falcons won the team title with 36 points while Uniondale was second with 35. Kareem Morris was involved in 30 of Albany’s points when he won the 100 and 200 and ran the second leg on a first-place 400 relay.
Prior to this year, only one other time has the Eddy Meet been canceled. It happened in 1996, when an early-morning snowfall covered the Union College facility. Only once has the Eddy Meet been held outside of Schenectady, in 2005, when Niskayuna High School hosted the showcase due to a scheduling conflict. Guilderland ace Brian Rhodes-Devey won the mile that year with a state sophomore record (4:14.49).
Jessica Milosch of Saratoga Springs didn’t wait to pick up her trophy after winning the 800 at the 1992 meet. The state cross country champ crossed the finish line and kept on going, through the Union College gate and right to her mom’s waiting car, which zoomed off. Milosch had prom that night, and a hair appointment to get to.
Andy Bloom of Niskayuna set the state discus record at the 1991 Eddy Meet with a 198-10, and later that season he topped it with a 202-9 at the state meet qualifier. No other New York scholastic thrower had reached 200 feet before that performance, and no one has since. Bloom, Tim Lewis of Shenendehowa and Tracy Baskin of Albany are among the Section II athletes who won Eddy Meet events and later competed at the Olympic level.
From 1955 through 1978, Mont Pleasant was the lone Section II team to earn a team championship, and the Red Raiders had to share it with Bishop Loughlin. That powerhouse Mont Pleasant contingent coached by Ray Vacca and Larry Mulvaney and anchored by Don Blaha, Jack Edwards, Ron Horan, Jim Scott and Lou Paparella, outpointed every other team it met that year and was the recipient of a legacy tribute at the 2019 SCSD Athletic Hall of Fame ceremony.
Roosevelt Grier of NFL fame with the New York Giants and more so with Los Angeles Rams as a member of their “Fearsome Foursome” set the Eddy Meet shot put record in 1951 with a 57-1 3/4, and it lasted for five years. Here’s the cool part of the tale. Grier entered the competition without ever having picked up a shot put before, and set his mark after an impromptu clinic with longtime meet official Dr. Anthony Capello.