Thomas Kika

Thomas Kika

SARATOGA SPRINGS – The air was seasonably mild and the afternoon sun was strong when the Saratoga Boys Tennis team’s spring season kicked off.

Facing off against the visiting Shaker High School team on April 3, the air of confidence and friendship amongst the Saratoga Springs High School athletes was as relaxed as the weather.  As each matchup was announced, the other members cheered and hollered as their teammate made his way to shake hands with his opponent for the day.  Coming off last season, this team may have every reason to feel confident and at ease. 

“We ended up winning the section for the first time in the school’s history [last season],” head coach Tim O’Brien said.  “It was a great year last year.  We lost some important players from last year’s team, but we also have a lot of seniors this year that are gonna be very experienced.”

Amongst these seniors, O’Brien singled out a few that seemed particularly promising going forward into the season.  David Romano, who has been playing on Saratoga tennis teams since 8th grade and will be attending Brown University next fall, was one of them, defeating Shaker’s Ashatash Valigar in two games, 6-1 and 6-3.  Seungmin Kim was another of those seniors, a transfer from Texas a few seasons back, who defeated Niraj Shah in two games, 6-1 on both counts. 

This first match went decisively in the Blue Streak’s favor, with the Saratoga athletes winning in each of the nine match-ups, six singles and three doubles.  In all, things look to be going well for another dominant season.

Practice began indoors on March 13, and have continued indoors for the past few weeks on account of weather.  March 30 marked their first outdoor practice.

“It’s exciting to actually be out and enjoying the weather,” O’Brien said.

Results:

Singles:

-David Romano (Saratoga, Senior) vs. Ashatash Valigar (Shaker)                 Winner: Saratoga, Set 1: 6-1, Set 2: 6-3

-Seungmin Kim (Saratoga, Senior) vs. Niraj Shah (Shaker)      Winner: Saratoga, Set 1: 6-1, Set 2: 6-1

-Nick Grosso (Saratoga, Grade 8) vs. Ryan Parks (Shaker)        Winner: Saratoga, Set 1: 6-0, Set 2: 6-0

-Max Lee (Saratoga, Senior) vs. Cameron Germaine (Shaker) Winner: Saratoga, Set 1: 6-0, Set 2: 4-6, Set 3: 6-4

-Eddie Towers (Saratoga, Junior) vs. Kevin Luu (Shaker)                      Winner: Saratoga, Set 1: 6-3, Set 2: 6-0

-Luke DeRizzo (Saratoga, Junior) vs. Noah Massry (Shaker)    Winner: Saratoga, Set 1: 6-1, Set 2: 6-1

Doubles:

-Matt Chmiel & David Ackerman (Saratoga, Seniors) vs. Nasiru Kotey & Rahul Akkeem (Shaker)            Winner: Saratoga, Set 1: 6-3, Set 2: 6-1

-Ben Crandall & Max Jackson (Saratoga, Sophomore and Junior respectively) vs. P.K. Kura & Sonny Gajjala                Winner: Saratoga, Set 1: 6-2, Set 3: 6-0

-Pratik Gurung & Matt Hogan (Saratoga, Junior and Freshman respectively) vs. George Tidd & Zavi Uppal                  Winner: Saratoga, Set 1: 6-1, Set 2: 6-1

Final: Saratoga, 9-0

[UPDATE: When originally published, this article incorrectly referred to sets as "games."  This has been corrected for the online version.]

All photos by Photoandgraphic.com.

Thursday, 30 March 2017 19:28

Saratoga YMCA Youth Basketball Finals

SARATOGA SPRINGS – The play-offs for the Saratoga Regional YMCA’s youth basketball league were held recently, marking the end of the league’s current season before the new summer league commences in June.  In the Saratoga Rotary Jr. Division, the D’Andrea’s Pizza and BHHS Blake Realtors teams faced off, with D’Andrea’s coming out on top, 42-32.  In the Saratoga/Wilton Elks Lodge Sr. Division, the Toyota of Clifton Park and Mexican Connection teams competed in the finals, with the Toyota of Clifton Park team taking the win, 56-46.

Along with the finals, the youth league also gave out the James Cudney Award, which goes to the player who most exemplifies the YMCA’s core values.  This year, the award went to Saratoga Springs High School junior Elias Wohl.

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Amateur boxers came together in Saratoga Springs this past weekend to fight for a good cause. 

On March 25, the Saratoga Springs City Center played host to a night of amateur boxing to honor and raise money for celebrated Capitol Region boxing promoter, Bob Miller.  Miller, a 60-year industry veteran and founder of the Uncle Sam Boxing Club in Troy, was in a serious car accident on Oct. 15 of last year that left him paralyzed.  Shortly after, the Miller family established the Bob Miller Fund, a GoFundMe campaign with the goal of raising money to help cover Miller’s expenses, including “his medical care, the equipment (e.g., wheelchair, braces) he will need, and lodging for Linda, our father's wife, and the immediate family so that we can continue to support him during his long rehabilitation away from home,” according to the page’s description. 

Doors opened for the event at 6:30 p.m., with the first bout commencing at 7:30 p.m.  A total of 13 bouts took place over the course of the show, which drew around 850 attendees.  According to city center executive director Ryan McMahon, when factoring in volunteers and trainers, the total attendance number for the night was closer to 1,000. 

“Very strong,” McMahon said about the night’s attendance figures.

Some of the bouts on the card included Schuylerville-native Joey Barcia against Francis Hogan of Boston, Alison Watson of Vermont against Jamere Shelby of Albany, Malachi Davis of Albany against Richard Hogan of Boston, and the Uncle Sam Boxing Club’s own Tugar VanDommelen against Gianni Gragnano.  In addition to the boxing, other fundraising activities at the event included a raffle and a silent auction.

At time of writing, event organizer Dave Wojcicki estimates that the event raised around $15,000 for the Bob Miller Fund.  When asked if the city center would possibly work with Bob Miller and company in the future, McMahon was optimistic.

“We would love to,” McMahon said.  “Bob is a long standing client and fixture in Saratoga Springs boxing.”

Anyone interested in donating to the Bob Miller Fund can find the campaign’s page at www.gofundme.com/bob-miller-fund-2unsxys.

All photos in this story are by PhotoAndGraphic.com.

SARATOGA SPRINGS – A group of local students recently took a break from esoteric calculus and SAT prep to learn some more practical real world skills.

The Saratoga-Sponsor-A-Scholar program decided to do something a little different for its yearly feedback session, during which they find out what their senior students like and dislike about the program for the sake of future improvements.  Responding to a complaint that has been common from students over the years that they did not learn enough about handling certain social situations, Mary Gavin and Kristie Roohan organized an “etiquette dinner” that would help their students learn to be more comfortable in such situations, in addition to giving them an opportunity to give their feedback on the program. 

Held at Sperry’s Restaurant in downtown Saratoga Springs, part of the goal of the dinner was to teach the students about restaurant etiquette, including using menus, how to order, which utensils to use, among a variety of other things.  Beyond all of that, the broader goal of the night was help the students learn to feel comfortable in social situations that might take place in environments similar to Sperry’s, whether they be meetings, interviews, parties, or any other similar sort of occasion. 

“It was so much better than we could’ve expected,” Mary Gavin said of the dinner.  “They loved it.” 

Students were encouraged to ask any questions they had about anything during the night, and they asked plenty, as many of them had never had experience with restaurants like Sperry’s before.  According to Gavin, questions ranged from wanting to know about certain menu items that they had never heard of, to asking if it was okay to ask to take their leftovers home.  To their credit, Gavin said that the wait staff at Sperry’s were courteous and grateful throughout the night, helping students with anything and everything they needed or wanted to know about.

The dinner also gave the program organizers their annual opportunity to solicit feedback about the program from the outgoing senior students.  According to Gavin, students expressed their satisfaction with the program as a whole, in particular with the mentors that they have been working with, while also expressing dissatisfaction with their mentors’ tendency to be gone certain days on official business, leaving them without guidance.  Gavin said that they will be taking that latter criticism into account moving forward.

Saratoga-Sponsor-A-Scholar is a ten-year-old not-for-profit program that works with “financially-disadvantaged” students in the Saratoga Springs school system by assigning them mentors who help them to finish high school and prepare for college.  Many of the students in the program end up being the first in their families to enter college, according to Gavin.

Ultimately, Gavin said that one thing stood out to her the most as a sign that the night had been a success.

“I think the highlight was we didn’t see a single cell phone the entire night,” Gavin said.

What do you think of SSAS's etiquette dinner idea?  Should more school program's teach practical social skills?  Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

All photos in this story are by PhotoAndGraphic.com.

Thursday, 23 March 2017 19:01

Saratoga YMCA Gymnasts Soar on Home Turf

WILTON – The Saratoga Regional YMCA’s “Springettes” jumped, spun, and balanced their way past the competition at a recent home meet, landing several first place wins over the visiting teams.

The competition was held in the Wilton Branch’s gymnastics center from March 18-19, and saw the Saratoga Regional YMCA’s competitive girls gymnastics team – or, the Springettes – face off against both the Glens Falls and Oneonta YMCA gymnastics teams.  Gymnasts age 6-17 competed in four events: vault, uneven bars, balance beam, and floor exercise.  Overall, 116 young athletes competed at the event, ranging from levels 2-9, according to gymnastics director Kim Hewitt. 

“The Saratoga Y did very well,” Hewitt said.  “We had 13 athletes come in first place in the all-around competitions in their levels and age divisions.  We also had 46 1st place medals on individual events during the meet. We have really been consistently improving throughout the year.”

According to Hewitt, a number of Springettes gave standout performances at the event.  The two level 9 competitors, Sophie Hrebenach and Marissa Verro, competing in their last home meet before graduation, both put in strong work.  Hrebenach placed 2nd all-around for level 9, and placed 1st on the vault with a well-executed Tsukahara flip.  She also placed 2nd in floor exercise with 9.425 points, a season high for her.  Verro, meanwhile, placed 3rd overall for level 9, and was 2nd on the vault with two front-front vaults.  This was all the more impressive for Verro because, as Hewitt noted, the front-front vault was a new maneuver for her.

Beyond Hrebenach and Verro, a handful of other Springettes placed first at different levels and in different events.  These individuals are as follows: Abby Moller, level 8, all ages; Jordan Toma, level 7, ages 16 and up; Kaitlyn Kidder, level 7, ages 14-15; Alina Williams, level 6, masters division; Brynne Wright, level 6, ages 13-15; Morgan Thompson, level 5, ages 12 and up; Leah Torres, level 5, ages 9-11; Lauren Closson, level 4, ages 12 and up; Erika Sudigala, level 4, age 11; Erin Ward, level 3, age 11; Addison Furze, level 2, age 9A; Lola Ferrillo, level 2, age 8; and, Amelia McBain, level 2, ages 11 and up. 

From here, the Springettes will be focused on the upcoming championship meets, beginning with the League Championships in Watertown, which will take place from April 1-2.   Following that, there will also be the State YMCA Gymnastics Championships at SUNY Oneonta and the Regional YMCA Championships in Redfield, ME.  The team also has 19 girls attending the National Championships in Savannah, GA, which will run from June 29-July 2.  

Thursday, 23 March 2017 18:55

Parents Push Back

SARATOGA SPRINGS – After discovering what they saw as a questionably one-sided graphic in their childrens’ schoolwork, a local group of conservative-minded women decided to take action, and soon found themselves in the national spotlight on the popular morning news and talk program, “Fox & Friends.”

“Saratoga Conservative Chicks” is a Facebook group that launched early on March 22, but prior to that, its members had been chatting daily through social media and sharing information since early last year.

The group has grown exponentially in the past 6 months,” said Amy, a member of the group who wished to be referred to only by her first name for the sake of her family.  “We chat daily through social media, etc., and last week a concerned parent brought to our attention the assignment by a classroom teacher at Saratoga High School.”

The graphic in question was from a power-point discussion in a 10th grade class at Saratoga Springs High School on the topic of the rise of fascism during World War II.  Within the power-point, cartoons depicting President Donald Trump with facial hair similar to Adolf Hitler, as well as comparing the President’s appearance to Benito Mussolini, were used to link the topic of the lesson with current events.  Once the concerned parent showed them the cartoons, the group mutually agreed that the content was “one sided and inappropriate.” 

The particular power point in question here was about WWII,” said another group member who wished to remain unnamed for the sake of her children.  “Trump was not president then and has no relevancy to that war. I would be equally upset finding a cartoon like that of Obama, or Bush, or Clinton inserted into this lesson in this manner. It is clearly biased, clearly pushing an agenda. The power point and the fascism debate handout support the lack of balance in this lesson. That is what is at the crux of this group and how we formed.”

At an earlier point, the graphic and its accompanying lesson were available online through the teacher’s website, for the sake of student reference.  However, as of March 22, the site has been closed-off from public viewing. 

Following this, a member of the group got in touch with conservative columnist and commentator Todd Starnes with the information.  Starnes, a frequent “Fox & Friends” contributor, conducted his own research on the issue for a column on his website.  According to Amy, Starnes’s involvement with is what led to their group’s spot on “Fox & Friends,” as the interview process “escalated quickly” after he began looking into the issue.  Starnes also states in his column that the lesson became blocked once he started asking questions about it.

We are very proud of the two women who represented us on Fox News,” Amy said.  “They did a great job in a short amount of time.”

As of 11 a.m. the day after their interview, their segment had received 144,000 views on the “Fox & Friends” Facebook page.

Amy said that the group’s hope moving forward is to encourage members of the local community to join them in debate and discussion of these issues.

“Especially young girls,” Amy said.

In an official statement, the Saratoga Springs City School District (SSCSD) said that after an investigation into the lesson, they found that it did not violates the district’s rules about keeping classroom activities non-partisan, as the images were used to visually display the idea of potential media bias.  Further, the school found that the lesson was used to teach students to debate and research fascism on their own terms.

We continue to reinforce the District’s policy which states that employees will in no way impair the non-partisan position of the schools,” said Michael Piccirillo, superintendent of schools for SSCSD. 

Do you have any feelings on this issue?  Let us know in the comments section below.

SARATOGA COUNTY – Two local robotics teams stole the show at a recent regional competition, paving the way for their trips to the national level in April.

Robotics club teams from the Ballston Spa and Schuylerville school districts competed at the NY Tech Valley FIRST Robotics competition, a regional division of the FIRST Robotics Competition, an international youth event designed to give student practical engineering experience.  Each school put in strong work at the competition, which ran from March 16-18 at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, with Ballston Spa receiving the prestigious Chairman’s Award, and Schuylerville finishing in second place and putting up the highest score of the weekend during the quarterfinals, 450 points.  Both teams will be competing at the national championships in St. Louis, MO, which will run from April 26-29.

At the regional competition, teams were challenged to design and build robots that could receive and place gears, fire wiffle balls, and climb five feet.  Each challenge would net the teams a certain amount of points, and it was up to the teams which actions they designed their machines to specialize in.  Ballston Spa chose to design a robot that could do all three actions, with club advisor and coach Darrel Ackroyd being particularly proud of the machines ability to place gears by itself.

We can receive gears from the human player station and place the gear on the peg via an active placement of the gear,” Ackroyd said.  “Most teams have a passive gear system where the pilot has to pull the gear out of the robot.”

Schuylerville, on the other hands, chose to focus on gear-placing and climbing, as they determined that shooting wiffle balls would be too difficult to design for, and would not yield as many point as the other challenges.

Every team competing in the FIRST Robotics competition was informed of the challenges they would face in January, and then had six weeks to design and build the robot they would take to the competition.  After that, their machine had to be submitted, or “bagged and tagged,” so that they could not utilize it again before the competition weekend.  Both teams, however, built practice robots at the same time as their competition robots, so that they could continue practicing after the six week time limit. 

“Our robot performed incredibly and we won quarterfinals,” Ackroyd said about his team’s performance.  “We came up short in semi finals, but our alliance with Cambridge and Troy was a great one to be apart of in eliminations.”

“I couldn’t have ask for anymore,” said Mark Belden, advisor and coach for the Schuylerville team.  “We’re not a big team, but we went right out there.  Our team, our mentors, our alliance partners… it went as well as I could’ve expected.”

This will be Ballston Spa’s third time competing at the national level, and their second time in a row, having made it to the finals at RIT last year.  This will also be Schuylerville’s second year in a row competing at nationals.  Neither team has won at that level, but they are hopeful heading into the event. 

We are making changes to our climber and gear mechanism for our competition this weekend at Rockland County,” Ackroyd said.  “I feel with these changes we should be a top-performing robot at the competition”

“We’re feeling really good,” Belden said.  “Some other teams we competed against have already gotten in touch with us with suggestions.”

Schuylerville is currently raising money to help fund their trip to St. Louis.  Belden estimates that it will cost around $20,000 to transport the team.  They will be hosting a spaghetti dinner and raffle to help raise funds on March 31 in the elementary school cafeteria, from 5-8 p.m.  Donations can also be made directly at www.gofundme.com/schuylerville-robotics-team-4508.

SARATOGA SPRINGS – The weather may continue to disagree, but spring is in the air.  On March 6, practice for the varsity and JV boys lacrosse teams’ spring season commenced at the Adirondack Sports Complex in Queensbury, with the girls’ team following suit on March 13.  Check back next week for our full preview story of the upcoming boys lacrosse season.  For more information on practices and game times, go to www.saratogaschools.org/athletics.

SARATOGA SPRINGS – The New York State Scholastic Chess Championship celebrated its major half-century anniversary in Saratoga Springs this past weekend.  The 50th annual youth chess tournament ran from March 11-12, and took place across both the Saratoga City Center and the Saratoga Hilton hotel.  Drawing players from across the state and country, from grades K-12, the total number of children at the tournament was around 1200, making it the largest ever chess tournament held in upstate New York recognized by the United States Chess Federation. 

Thursday, 16 March 2017 17:30

Saratoga Girl Scouts Hold Local Jamboree

SARATOGA COUNTY – The Girl Scouts of the Saratoga-Schuylerville Service Unit came together this past weekend for a day of fun and learning at the annual Jamboree.  Taking place at Geyser Road Elementary School on March 12, the event is held every year to celebrate the anniversary of the founding of the first Girl Scouts troop by Juliette Gordon Lowe in Savannah, GA.  The theme of this year’s Saratoga Jamboree was “Countries from Around the World,” tasking each troop with picking a country and learning about its culture.  The troops then set up tables at the Jamboree with informational displays and activities related to their countries. 

According to Jamboree organizer Whitney Jobmann, the event is also an opportunity for scouts, young and old, to come together and have fun.  The Girl Scouts has six different levels, broken down by grade: Daisy (K-1), Brownie (2-3), Junior (4-5), Cadette (6-8), Senior (9-10) and Ambassador (11-12).  Jobmann said that 225 girls from 26 different local troops attended the Jamboree this past week.

In addition to the Girl Scouts,” Jobmann said.  “Are… the troop leaders and adult members of the troop [who] do a great job of supporting and encouraging the girls.”

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Blotter

  • COURTS Charles B. “Chip” Locke, 44, of Porters Corners, pleaded guilty on April 12 to third degree grand larceny, a felony, in connection with the theft of funds from the Greenfield Home School Association. Locke served as treasurer for the Greenfield HSA and admitted to stealing approximately $15,070.70, according to Saratoga County District Attorney Karen Heggen. Locke is scheduled to be sentenced on June 8, during which it is anticipated he will be ordered to serve six months in jail and pay back full restitution to the Greenfield HSA during a period of five years of probation.      Clifford…

Property Transactions

  • BALLSTON SPA 58 Cypress St., $309,900. Heritage Builders Group LLC sold property to Kathleen and Benjamin Kalesa, Jr.  16 Saddlebrook Blvd., $454,549. Legacy Custom Homes LLC sold property to Brenda and John Thomas, Jr.  810 Route 50, $175,000. Kirby Burnt Hills Realty LLC sold property to RECKDE LLC.  37 Sycamore St., $360,000. Claudette Nealy sold property to Alex Varghese and Mary Pladocostante.  GREENFIELD 35 Southwest Pass, $253,000. Ramon Posada sold property to David and Omega Moya.  17 Rebecca Dr., $430,000. Steven and Suzanne Cousineau sold property to Daniel and Young Elinskas.  280 Middle Grove Rd., $335,000. Carol Hopper sold property…
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