Somebody is going to go.
It’s a reunion, it’s a homecoming, it’s an anniversary, it’s a celebration.
There will be a fun run. It’ll be fun. They promise.
Then somebody is going to go, somebody is going to get on those well-worn cross country paths, the Saratoga Spa State Park course as recognizable as the face of an old friend, and the fierce juices of competition will resurface. It’ll be Old Timers Day, yuks all around, until somebody hauls in to second base spikes-high to break up the double play.
Somebody will get on that 5k cross country course for the fun run and go — hard — to get away.
And somebody else will decide not to let them.
It was over a year and a half ago that my friend Tom Law told me that he and another former Saratoga Springs High School runner, Jamie Navarro, had hatched a plan to organize a reunion of former Blue Streaks from the three-plus decades that the incredibly successful, nationally ranked program has been coached by Art and Linda Kranick.
The original idea was just to get everybody together for some form of a race on their home course, which everyone in Section II is familiar with (they hold sectionals and other invitationals there), but has become synonymous with Saratoga High. This is where they train, too. It’s their turf.
And what an idea. If you’ve paid attention to high school cross country in the Capital Region, the names fall readily off your tongue: Cheri Goddard, Erin Davis, Dylan Welsh, Nicole Blood, Hannah Davidson . . .
So on Saturday, Sept. 9, the reunion committee will host a social event and buffet dinner for Saratoga runners past and present at the City Center featuring a video presentation of old photos and film clips as a tribute to the program and the Kranicks’ indelible influence on it.
Then on Sunday, Sept. 10, they’ll take a group photo next to the big blue sign that greets visitors to this city:
Welcome to SARATOGA SPRINGS”
Home of the ‘Blue Streaks’
N.Y.S. Cross Country CHAMPIONS
You know the one, with the championship years listed underneath that are so crowded they could’ve used the Stanley Cup engraver to fit them all.
But before the photo shoot will be the fun run. And if it lives up to the legacy of the program (I’m betting it will), the most fun part about it will be to see to what degree a carefree jog takes on the shape of a race, a real race. This, after all, is the essence of all Kranick-coached teams.
“Who knows, it might turn into a competitive thing,” Tom said a week and a half ago. “There’s always going to be somebody. Somebody has to lead the way, right?"
Since the late 1980s, that has been the Kranicks.
Here are some numbers:
On the girls’ side, 16 public high school state championships, including two streaks of six straight years each; 23 state Federation championships, including 16 straight from 1990-2005; one Nike national championship (2004).
On the boys’ side, four public high school state championships; four Federation titles; one Nike national championship.
Individually, seven different girls have won the state meet, including four by Davis and three by Blood; and five of them came right back with Fed titles, too. Besides Goddard, Davis, Blood and Davidson, Jessica Milosch, Danielle Coon, Lindsey Ferguson, Caitlin Lane and Kelsey Chmiel (who will be a junior at the high school this fall) have won state meets and/or competed in the Foot Locker national race.
Welsh has two boys’ Fed meet titles and a public high school championship, Greg Kelsey competed at Foot Locker in 2005 and 2015 state meet winner Aidan Tooker is running for Syracuse University now.
It wasn’t always such.
Navarro, who also ran at Syracuse, remembers the early years that may have been lean on talent and success, but quickly transformed under the culture of excellence the Kranicks created.
“I was cut from my first love, which was baseball,” said Navarro, class of 1988. “They hadn’t coached. I think I did well in a mile run in gym class. So in eighth grade, I went out for the team. We were 0-10. It was a good group, though. We had fun.
“My ninth grade, 1985, was their first year. We went from 0-10 to 7-3. The boys were third in states in 1987, when the girls won, and 1988 we won both. We just had this amazing team. We had two or three stars and a big fist of Saratoga runners behind them who would finish together.”
The girls’ program, with runners like Goddard, Staci Snider and Yola Strock in the 1980s, became great early, and was able to consistently sustain that for three decades. The reunion was positioned this year specifically to serve as the anniversary of their first state championship.
The goal has been to contact anyone who has been on the varsity roster since then, and to say that’s been a daunting task is a gross understatement.
“It’s been a huge effort just to compile all the people,” Law said. “Mrs. Kranick gave me a pile of rosters that she had, which is by no means complete. The earliest she had was 1990 until the present, and there were some holes. I started my own rough spreadsheet, and I don’t think my name was even in there because I was pre-1990.
“People are spread out like crazy.”
The event is open to team alumni and their families, current team members and close family and friends of the program and will be co-hosted by the Streaks Running Club, with any proceeds being donated to the club, a 501(c) non-profit that has been benefitting Saratoga runners for most of the Kranicks’ tenure as coaches.
Tickets and info, as well as a link to a special alumni Facebook page set up for the event, are available at www.saratogaxcalumni.org.
“Art and I are just thrilled. This is our huge extended family,” said Linda Kranick, who pointed out that many of their former runners are older than she and Art were when they started coaching. “Tom came over and we went through these huge Rubbermaid bins with photos, and every time we pulled one out it would elicit another memory. The first team with the tube socks and the short shorts ...
“Very few races do I remember, but I do remember the boys’ ’88 end of the race. I remember when Art took over in ’85, he tried to convince them that they could do anything, and they laughed. It was just a group of freshmen. He asked them to just trust what we tell you. So it was very emotional.
“You do your job every year and you have to sit back and look at the whole body of work. You forget that your career is not just one year.”
There will be plenty of sitting back and looking on Saturday, Sept. 9.
On Sunday, the tribute will move to the state park, and even if Mr. Kranick can somehow resist the urge to bellow his trademark “Pick it UPPPP . . .”, it surely will echo through the pines for the runners.
Then the real fun starts.