SCHENECTADY – Absence makes the heart grow fonder. And there are a bunch of hearts fond of what’s returning May 20 at Schenectady High School.
The William F. Eddy Jr. Memorial Track and Field Meet, a longtime premier scholastic meet in the region, will be held for the first time since 2019. It wasn’t held the last three years, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its restrictions. The Schenectady Police Benevolent Association, the host, briefly considered holding it last year, but canceled due to too many uncertainties with restrictions.
“It really was timing last year,” Sgt. Brad Carlton, the meet director, said. “We start fundraising months ahead of time. We didn’t want, if something happened with the virus and we had to cancel or scale back, to do that to the businesses. And this year, what we thought would happen, happened.”
And that has allowed the Eddy Meet to rejoin the calendar in its traditional spot on the third Saturday of May.
“The meet has always been run to a very high standard,” Schenectady track and field coach Joe Bennett said. “It’s one of the best meets, not only in our section, but all of New York. The logistics of that … I don’t think they wanted to rush it.”
Carlton and Bennett said that fundraising and meet entries have progressed nicely.
“I have heard from coaches that they’re very excited about its return,” Carlton said. “I feel bad for the athletes that didn’t get to compete in it these past few years, but that was true of a lot of things in society. We’re excited to be back.”
“There will still be some teams coming that haven’t signed up yet,” Bennett said. “We’re looking to get top-40 kids in the events. There are a good amount of Section II kids, but also ones from Amityville, Fair Haven (Vt.), Plattsburgh, Port Jefferson, Saranac, St. Johnsbury (Vt.), Uniondale.
“I’m sure it will get more legs as the weather breaks and times come down,” Bennett added. “Even my team, we’re still figuring things out. The kids are definitely glad it’s back. It’s almost a pre-state meet vibe, as it was every year. A lot of athletes want to be in it.”
“It’s been very positive so far, but we want to cross our t’s and dot our i’s and do it the right way,” Carlton said. “We have a lot of officers who haven’t done one in three or four years, or who are doing their first. It’s exciting for them, too.”
The meet began in 1941 and ran consecutively until 1996, when it was canceled due to an early morning snowfall that blanketed Union College, where it was being held that year. It ran every year thereafter until the pandemic.
The meet was originally known as the Schenectady Interscholastic Sports Carnival, but also was referred to as the Schenectady Policeman’s Sports Carnival, the Schenectady Sports Carnival, the Police Meet or the PBA Field Day. It 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.
Thirty-five schools from such areas as New York City, Long Island, New Jersey, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. competed at the first meet at Mont Pleasant High School. It has since been held at Linton High School, Niskayuna High School, Union College and, since 2011, Schenectady High School.
It was a boys-only meet through 1982, with girls’ events starting in 1983.
The meet attracted high-profile athletes. Jesse Owens, who won four gold medals at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, handed out trophies in 1972. Bob Beamon, who went on to win a gold medal in the men’s long jump in the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, competed in the 1965 Eddy meet as a senior for Jamaica High School. He won the long jump with a leap of 22 feet, 11.75 inches, and the triple jump with a meet-record 47-3.
In 2019, Jada Kenner, a seventh-grader from Tapestry Charter School in Buffalo, tied the 200-meter world, age-group record for 12-year-olds with a winning time of 23.72.