SCHENECTADY — Until a few weeks ago, Schenectady coach Ed Menis had been formulating plans to conduct the Everett T. Grout Cross Country Invitational that his high school annually hosts in Central Park.
“It’s tradition. First Saturday of October,” Menis said of the running festival. “I wanted to keep it going.”
The Grout Run, as it’s more commonly called, would have been held for the 82nd consecutive year this Saturday. Instead, it’s another casualty of the coronavirus pandemic that pushed back the start of the fall sports season by a month and eliminated the spring sports season in its entirety.
“We were trying all sorts of scenarios to make it happen,” said Menis, who has become an unofficial historian of the meet. “Since 1939, it’s never been canceled. It was even held during World War II. It wasn’t a huge meet in the early years, but it had top teams in the country.”
Due to school out-of-region travel restrictions that runs through late October, as well as gathering and competition restrictions, Menis had made plans for a scaled down Grout Run with many safety measures in place.
“I thought if we ran four teams at a time with 12 runners, we would be under the 50 [park gathering] limit,” Menis explained. “Once that group ran, we’d get the next group in. The last straw was when the Suburban Council [in mid-September] said every Saturday we were going to have dual meets.”
“I was sad to hear about that,” Schenectady junior runner Devin Decker said of the meet’s cancellation. “It’s a huge event. For us, it’s the Manhattan [Invitational] and Grout. Those are our two biggest meets.”
Schenectady senior Shazim Permaul made meet history last year when he became his school’s first race winner, and the first male from the Schenectady City School District to prevail since 1963. Shaker eighth-grader Leonni Griffin won her race for the second year in a row in 2019, but her quest to join four-time champions Maryanna Lansing of Shaker and Caitlin McTague is on hold at least for this year.
“It’s hard for me,” Menis said. “It’s even worse for the kids.”
The Grout Run was the second significant sports event hosted by Schenectady High School that was canceled going back to the spring, when the William F. Eddy Jr. Memorial Track and Field Meet was called off in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
“A lot of streaks have been broken,” Menis said. “There are worse things happening now.”
Menis said he had all but called off the Grout Run during the summer.
“I thought it was definitely canceled,” he said. “My AD [Steve Boynton] called me and said wait. That’s when I thought, ‘I got to figure out some way to do this,’ and we began going over the different scenarios.”
The Suburban Council, Foothills Council and Western Athletic Conference will begin their dual meet seasons Saturday. Schenectady will go to Shaker as part of the Suburban Council slate.
Reach Jim Schiltz at [email protected] or @jim_schiltz on Twitter.