COLONIE — Harry Koch was known for his toughness as a coach at Colonie High, but also his unwavering dedication to the sport of track and field, and his athletes.
He was instrumental in inaugurating the annual Colonie Relay Carnival in 1966, a meet that endures to this day as one of the most prestigious during the Section II spring season and will be held for the 55th time on Saturday.
Frank Myers, who was coached by Koch in JV basketball and later became his track assistant coach, said he remembers one meet that occurred shortly after Koch’s wife had died, and which illustrates the toughness and dedication Koch was known for.
“His wife died, like, the day before the Colonie Relays one time in the early 1970s … he came in the next day, dragged the [cinder] track, lined it and then, of course, he went home,” Myers said on Thursday.
“That’s the kind of guy he was. True story.”
For those qualities and Koch’s role in pioneering the Colonie Relays, the meet will be renamed “The Harry Koch Colonie Relay Carnival” during a ceremony at the high school on Saturday, shortly before the boys’ portion of the meet begins at 2 p.m.
Koch and family, along with six athletes who competed in the original 1966 meet, will be in attendance.
“He and Ed Springstead, together, kind of started the Colonie Relays,” Myers said. “My brother, Don, ran in the very first one.”
Don Myers will be there, along with Paul Gansle, Jeff Green, Bill Haas, Brian Fitzpatrick and Brian Casey, all Colonie grads who ran in the first Colonie Relays.
Koch coached at the school from 1958 until 1977, after which Frank Myers took over and coached the Garnet Raiders track team for the next 40 years.
“There was one time when I was the spring coach, and I had a move that I thought was going to be a real good one,” Myers said. “I said, ‘I’m going to put [hurdler] Pete McNeil in the 100 dash as well as the 100 high hurdles.’
“He says, ‘Well, we’ll try that, but if it screws up, there’s going to be hell to pay.’ Well, McNeil tore his hamstring and never ran again. I didn’t get murdered. He let me coach a little while longer.”
Fans are welcome to attend the meet, which will begin at 9 a.m. with the girls’ portion.
The Colonie Relays, like some other big invitational-type meets in Section II this spring, was split by gender to cut back on crowd size.
Saratoga Springs is entered in the girls’ meet and could be in position to take a run at the meet record in one of the distance events, which include the 3,200, distance medley and 6,000.
Some of the Section II individual stars expected to compete include Saratoga’s Ella Kurto and Emily Bush, Shaker’s Leonni Griffin and Niskayuna’s Kaleigh West.
One interesting matchup might come between Guilderland’s Kate Scanlan and Taconic Hills’ Clare Howard, who could make a run at the meet record of 1:06.13 in the intermediate hurdles, held by Shaker’s Julia Barker.
On the boys’ side, some of the top athletes expected to compete include Colonie’s Fabian De Silva, La Salle’s Gitch Hayes and Shenendehowa’s Scott Dochat.