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The two past weeks has been a run for spring sectional championships for local high school teams. A first time team Sectional Championship for Saratoga boys' Tennis, the Blue Streaks boys' Track and Field won the AA sectional title and a class B sectional runner up performance for Saratoga Catholic boys' baseball team.
First of all, whether you are aware of it or not, Saratoga High School has a very good tradition in boys and girls tennis and until recently, the boys have been unable to overcome the dominance of teams like Bethlehem, Shen and Niskayuna. The Suburban Council, in my opinion, is one of the top conferences in scholastic tennis for upstate NY. Congratulations to a solid performing tennis lineup, a fairly young one at that, and their Head Coach Tim O'Brien (who also teaches social studies), and the rest of coaching staff for a stellar season. I feel that Coach Tim O'Brien will continue with future success for the Blue Streaks boys’ tennis team.
Congratulations to the SSHS Track and Field team for winning the Class AA sectional meet last week. A track and field meet, for those who don't understand how it works, is an event that is the sum total of a series of events. There are anywhere from 16 to 18 events that make up a track meet, so there's a lot going on, to say the least. It's really a great spectator sport that has many interesting individual and team aspects to it. This phenomenon takes place at a single area, a smorgasbord, or collection of a variety of athletic endeavors and challenges. My hat goes off to the athletes and Head Coach Chris Conley (who also teaches math) and his staff, for their accomplishment.
I would also like to pass on my salutary endorsement to the Saratoga Catholic baseball team for a great season, a record of 22-2, they finished as runner up in the Class B sectional championship game. The Saints have a reputation for an excellent high school baseball program. The tradition has an obvious mentor, and leader – Head Coach Phonsey Lambert, who incidentally just passed the 500 career games won milestone. Amazingly, the Saints, year in and year out, are at the top of the baseball leader board of the Capital District and Section 2. Congrats to the Saints and their coaches, one of Coach Lambert's assistants is Dale Long, the namesake of his dad who played MLB.
The Ballston Spa High School softball team won its first ever Class AA Sectional title by upending Suburban Council nemesis Shenendehowa, congrats to Coach Amanda Fifield and the Scotties. Also, about a week ago Greenwich High School baseball team won its first sectional title in 16 years; Burnt Hills swept the boys and girls class A track sectionals; with Mechanicville boys and Greenwich girls track teams winning their respective championships. The Shenendehowa girls' track program won the AA sectional title, by edging out Saratoga, 190.5 to 171 in total points.
Section 2 has always been a leader in sports throughout the history of New York State interscholastic athletics. New York has eleven regions, or sections, for scholastic athletics. Some sections are known for their dominance of certain sports, like Sections 8 and 11, in the New York City area, are known for their basketball. Section 3, Syracuse area, is also known for basketball, but has a strong football, soccer and lacrosse tradition. Section 2, I feel is a little more diverse with sports like, ice hockey, basketball, cross country/track, soccer and football. There are many more noteworthy sections in the state known for excellence in certain sports.
On the other side of things, some teams that did not win sectional titles, but were very successful, like the Saratoga High School girls' track and field program, under the direction of Art and Linda Kranick, as usual, were still in the hunt and had a great season.
As for the Saratoga Catholic track and field program, in its third year of existence, the boys won the first ever track meet against MeKeel Christian of Scotia, and followed with a second win the following week. The girls did very well, but there aren't enough team members to score a victory. The boys and girls both established many personal and school records this season.
A note of interest: Saratoga Catholic has moved out of the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) and beginning this coming fall the Saints will be competing in the Wasaren league. The transition will be a challenging endeavor for the school. The Wasaren is an excellent league, but I feel it's a good move for SCC's athletic program.
In case you missed it: The Upstate New York Basketball Hall of Fame inducted the class of 2016 a couple of weekends ago. Local inductees were: Saratoga's Joe Britton, 1988 Section 2 Championship team. In 1992, he was named for D3 All American Honors while at Hartwick College; Superintendent of Mechanicville City School District, Michael McCarthy, Schuylerville High School's early 70s Section 2 Champs and Clarkson College standout; Robin Chudy, Saratoga's girls varsity basketball coach, who starred at Union College, and well known referee Gary Kalinkewicz, ranked as one of the areas top officials. I would like to extend my congratulations to those recipients.
I'm not one who likes to compare eras of local sports, because it gets to be "my dog is better than your dog" and it can become personal, but in the near future I intend to talk about the "good old days" of section 2 sports. An era that I'm referring to relates to a time that drifts from the late 50s through the mid to late 70s, with an emphasis on the 1960s which is a time that I can give an account of since it's part of my history.
Burnt Hills Native Returns to Northshire for Third Novel Release
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Kara Storti has been blessed with the gift of articulation – the ability not only to communicate – but to reach into her own soul, and touch yours. This has been evident since her high school (Burnt Hills/Ballston Lake) days, when, as a young songwriter, she dazzled audiences with her original, introspective lyrics, a sweet, yet powerful voice, and melodies that grabbed you and wouldn’t let go.
It was obvious that, despite not being old enough to buy a drink at some of the places she played music (such as Gaffney’s, during songwriter nights) with her band, or solo behind the keyboard, that she could more than hold her own with seasoned veterans twice her age, maybe more. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that saw her perform that she would be a pro – and a successful one at that.
Fast forward just over a decade, and we find that Kara done just that – become a professional who has taken her craft of writing to a new level, with the publication of her third novel, Tripping Back Blue, that will have its New York release next Thursday at Northshire Bookstore. This ‘homecoming’ to her native area will include reading, Q + A, and book signing.
In addition to being a novelist, Kara has applied her craft to professional outlets. After high school, she migrated to Boston (her current home), where she logged a stint at Harvard University’s office of correspondence for Harvard’s then-President Lawrence Summers, and currently does medical writing for Vortex, a pharma company that develops drugs to combat cystic fibrosis.
“I love medical writing,” Kara noted, “After Lawrence Summers left/got booted at Harvard, I stayed around for a bit during the search for his successor in the Provost’s office, but I needed to get more stimulation from writing.” This came from the medical field, but more importantly from writing fiction as well.
Don’t judge a book by its cover, and in the same vein, don’t let Kara’s sweet persona and her good-natured sense of humor (laced with a nice bit of deadpan sarcasm) fool you – this is gritty writing in the realism mode. In Tripping, set in the urban, mostly inner-city areas of the Capital Region, Kara writes from the perspective of Finn, a male drug dealer and his own personal struggles with addiction, and life in general.
“The inspiration for this was real,” Kara said, “I was in a relationship with a guy from Burnt Hills who struggled with a drug problem. I had started to develop some of the themes of the book before I became aware about his battling these demons. Actually, the main character began as a female, sort of a female Harry Potter, who defeated dark forces with components of magic. But once I did learn the truth about him, the words just flowed in a different direction. It turned out to be a catharsis of sorts for me.”
Some brief excerpts tell the tale:
“All I’ve got to do is just get through this ordeal. Push through it; be a man…
“Stupid car. Stupid neighborhood. It’d be one thing if I lived in New York City, where there’s violence, sure, but tons of opportunity to become a better man. Not the case here. Instead I’m north of Albany, in rotten Dammer-f-ing-town, where there is no other side, where no great life is waiting for me, where the earth threw up and walked away.”
- From ‘Tripping Back Blue’
By Kara Storti
Published by Carolrhoda Books - April 1, 2016
I asked her if she still composed songs. “I still write them, from time to time, when I can,” she said. “I find that it is good to combat writer’s block – switching disciplines can unclog the mental log jam.”
These and other tips will be shared with a Saratoga Springs High School Senior class earlier that day, while you get to enjoy the finished product of her hard work and effort later that evening.
As a music programmer, Kara Storti made me look like a very discerning, smart judge of talent. You will feel the same way if you recommend her appearance next week, as an accomplished author, to friends. As big a thrill as it is to spot a young person with a gift, it’s even a bigger thrill to check in later on, and see how that ability and flair has blossomed. And that, simply, is what you have before you next Thursday.
Speaking of which, if you read this far, you have migrated to our PULSE section, where Rebecca Davis does a great job letting her talent blossom. I highly recommend that you read the rest of this section as long as you are here - always a nice counterpoint to the dreary news of the day.
“An evening with author Kara Storti” will take place at Northshire Bookstore, 424 Broadway in Saratoga Springs next Thursday, May 26 at 6 p.m. Kara will be conducting a Q & A, reading and signing copies of her new novel – “Tripping Back Blue” – which is suitable for mature teens and adults.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Though shortened by weather conditions, Saratoga Rowing Association (SRA) dominated the medal count at 2016 New York State Scholastic Rowing Association Championships on Saturday, May 14 and Sunday, May 15 on Fish Creek.
- 20 Championship Medals in side-by-side competition
- 11 additional medals based on earlier time trials (due to weather cancelling side-by-side heats)
- 31 medals total
- SRA first-place finishes:
- Sprint Racing: - Womens Freshmen Quad - Final 1
- Mens Freshmen Eight - Final 1
- Womens Varsity Pair - Final 1
- Womens Varsity Single - Final 1
- Womens Varsity Single - Final 2
- Mens Varsity Single - Final 1
- Mens Varsity Single - Final 2
- Womens Freshmen Eight - Final 1
- Mens Freshmen Quad – Final 1
- Womens Varsity Eight - Final 1
- Womens Lightweight Eight - Final 1
- Womens Juniors Four - Final 1
- Womens 2V Eight - Final 1
- Mens Juniors Quad - Final 1
- Mens Lightweight. Quad - Final 1
- Womens Varsity Quad - Final 1
- Womens Lightweight Quad - Final 1
- Womens Juniors Quad - Final 1
- Womens Juniors Double – Final 1
- Mens Lightweight Eight - Final 1
- Time Trials: - Womens Freshman Quad
- Mens Freshman Eight
- Womens Jr Four
- Womens 2V Eight
- Womens Freshman Eight
- Mens Freshman Quad
In a word – unreal. Afterwards, SRA announced that they were sending 73 rowers who qualified at States to Nationals (SRAA National Championships) in Zanesville, Ohio next weekend, May 27 and 28.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Senior Blue Streak baseball players, along with friends and family take the field for Senior Night at East Side Rec. on Saturday, May 14. Everyone celebrated as Saratoga romped over Schuylerville, 22-2 in their last regular season home game - closing out the season with four straight wins, and five of their last six, heading into the post-season vs. Niskayuna on Tuesday, May 17.
Senior team members pictured with their families are (L to R): Jake Kerr, Brendon Frank, Nick Kondo, Cory McArthur, Danny Hobbs, Shane Barringer, Danny Coleman and Brendan Coffey. Photo by MarkBolles.com
In that opening round contest, Saratoga, seeded sixth, was victorious over #11 Niskayuna, 5-0, and squared off versus #3 Ballston Spa on Thursday evening.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Jockey Wayne D. Wright, who won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes in separate years and was America’s leading rider in 1934 and 1936, and the 19th century racehorse Tom Ochiltree, winner of the 1875 Preakness Stakes and numerous prestigious handicap events, have been elected to the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame by the Museum’s Historic Review Committee.
Wright and Tom Ochiltree join contemporary selections Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, Ramon Dominguez and Steve Asmussen in the Hall of Fame Class of 2016. The Pillars of the Turf selections will be announced later this month. The induction ceremony takes place Friday, August 12 at 10:30 a.m. at the Fasig-Tipton sales pavilion.
Along with his wins in the Triple Crown races, Wright won three races aboard Triple Crown winner War Admiral, including the Whitney Handicap and Jockey Club Gold Cup. He also won the Dwyer and Arlington Classic with Triple Crown winner Omaha. He rode a third Hall of Famer, Eight Thirty, to victory in the 1938 Flash Stakes. Wright also won the Travers Stakes (1937), Saratoga Cup (1935) and Saratoga Special (1945).
Kick off to Summer Car Show Season
SARATOGA SPRINGS - The Saratoga Automobile Museum's huge Spring Auto Show and Family Fun Day, the traditional kick off of the summer car show and cruise in season, is drawing an unprecedented number of pre-registrations and show organizers are expecting the biggest turnout ever – for both cars and enthusiasts – at the museum's annual fund raising event for its many educational programs.
Set for Saturday, May 14 on the huge show field in the center of the scenic Saratoga Spa State Park, the show will run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Show admission, as always, will include a visit to the nearby auto museum, where the "Real Steel: Stories of Automotive Archeaology" exhibit is in its final month before yielding the Golub Gallery to the highly anticipated "POSEY: Shifting Through the Creative Life of Sam Posey" exhibit, which will open in mid-June. General admission is $10, day-of-show registration is $15 – each registration includes admission for the driver and one passenger.
Another bonus for attendees is the traditional exhibit of the Atlantic Coast Old Timers’ vintage race and sports cars from the Mo-Hud Region of the Sports Car Club of America in front of the auto museum.
New for 2016 will be the opportunity for area youths to be involved with judging of the auto show under the sponsorship of Hagerty Insurance and the "Adirondack A's" car club.
The "Adirondack A's" Model A Ford club provides "hands on" learning experiences for area teens through a yearly vehicle rebuilding project, with the students and their mentors set to display and discuss a 1931 Model A deluxe roadster that is being totally restored. A select group of the teenagers will take time out to work with the judges of the show's four marque classes.
Additional Family Fun Day activities will include dental screenings at the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile, a huge mobile dental facility staffed by the St. Peter's Hospital Dental Center staff, demonstrations on proper car seat installation by representatives of the Cornell Cooperative Extension program, Saratoga County Sheriffs with a display of Patrol Car technology and members of the regional Ford Model T Club with the Model T Experience. When you get hungry, there will be plenty of food vendors to choose from including Stewart's Shop and their delicious ice cream!
The featured marque classes for 2016 will include Model T Fords, Model A Fords, Pre-1972 Muscle Cars and Pre-1949 Street Rods, with entries arrayed around the Reflecting Pond adjacent to the huge "cruise-in" field.
Judges will select winners in the four marque classes while 20 SAM's Choice awards will be presented to the top "cruise in" entrants. Other awards up for grabs include the highly competitive People' Choice trophy, the Kid's Choice award from the student judges and the prestigious Best in Show trophy.
More information on the Saratoga Automobile Museum, including its many activities, lawn shows and educational programs, including the nationally recognized Distracted Driving program, can be found online at www.saratogaautomuseum.org, where registration forms are also available.
Dorothy Nolan Teachers vs. Greenfield FD For a Great Cause
SARATOGA SPRINGS – The basketball bleachers at Saratoga Springs High School were packed to the rafters as the staff of Dorothy Nolan Elementary School took on their arch-rivals Greenfield Fire Department for a great cause: Their annual Helping Hoops Basketball Game, at the Saratoga Springs High School on Friday, May 6 at 7 p.m.
While this was a tremendous opportunity for young students to see their teachers ‘strut their stuff’ in tye-dye, all who participated were there for an excellent cause – one that benefits student’s health, nutrition and well-being.
The proceeds from this event will go to the SNACPack program, which was founded by Dorothy Nolan alum Richard Martinez, and who was on hand to participate.
The SNACPack program is designed to meet the needs of hungry children on weekends, when other resources are not available. The program provides backpacks filled with food that is child-friendly, shelf-stable, and easily-consumed. Bags are packed each week by volunteers and discreetly distributed to participating children every Friday afternoon.
For more information about the SNACpack program and how you can get involved, visit www.facebook.com/SNACPackProgram
READING, PA – Cameron Coons, a former Saratoga Catholic Central standout baseball star, has been named as Player of the Year in the MAC (Middle Athletic Conference) Commonwealth Conference. Coons, a junior at Alvernia University in Reading, PA was also named to the All-MAC Commonwealth’s First Team at First Base.
Alvernia University is gearing up for the 2016 MAC Commonwealth Championship, Alvernia is the #1 seed, and is defending their title from the previous year.
Coons was recently named MAC Player of the Week and ECAC (Eastern College Athletic Conference) Division III South Player of the Week when he batted .588 (10-for-17) in a 4-1 week for Alvernia, including a 2-1 series win over Lebanon Valley College to clinch a berth in the MAC Commonwealth Tournament. Coons finished the week with nine RBIs, seven runs scored and three home runs. The junior opened the week hitting 4-for-4 with a home run in a win over Rutgers-Newark. Coons ended the week batting 4-for-6 with a home run, four RBIs and four runs scored over the final doubleheader against Lebanon Valley College. His regular season batting average is .426, with 55 hits, 15 doubles and 4 home runs.
SSHS Girls Soccer Players Tell Board of Ed About Their Experiences
SARATOGA SPRINGS – An investigation in process regarding an alleged pattern of abusive behavior by Saratoga Springs High School (SSHS) Girl’s Varsity Soccer Coach Adrienne Dannehy was given further, dramatic illumination at the Saratoga Springs Board of Education meeting on Tuesday, May 10. At that meeting, several SSHS students rose before the Board to read statements detailing their experiences on the team, in which they said they were forced to endure repeated instances of humiliation, intimidation and abuse at the hands of their coach.
Three students with Varsity Soccer experience read statements regarding their own experiences. Three other students read statements from Varsity players who wished to be anonymous.
Hannah Pendergast, a senior Varsity member, spoke to the Board and said forcefully that “…sports should not be about fear, power and control,” but this was the atmosphere that she and the other students/athletes who stood and spoke in support - Gabrielle Duchaussee, Rachael Blunt, Audrey Fox, Julie Granger and Lexi Bakkalapulo – had to continuously face. Hannah and the others talked about instances of three-hour team meetings where members of the squad were encouraged to browbeat others about their weaknesses, long practices in 90+ degree weather in which their coach walked by/ignored athletes who were vomiting, and many other incidents. “Our basic right of dignity has been consistently violated,” Hannah said, noting that she still feels the atmosphere of intimidation, though her high school playing days have concluded. “I still get sick every time I pass the coach or the locker room. School athletics should not be about this.”
Gabrielle Duchaussee, also a senior Varsity member, spoke about the regularity of the intimidating situations and constant negativity the surrounded the team. She made a point to note that “…we are not asking that the coach be fired, but the situation must be monitored and changed.”
Three other students - Rachael Blunt, Audrey Fox and Julie Granger, said that they had decided against playing for the Varsity Girl’s Soccer team because of the atmosphere. But each of them read statements to the Board from Varsity team members who wished to remain anonymous.
But Lexi Bakkalapulo, a sophomore Varsity Soccer Goalie, went on the record. “It has taken a lot for me to step forward, because I have two more years and I feel invisible to coaches I once admired and looked forward to learning from,” she said. “For a long time we suffered in silence in hopes of pleasing our coach, but we realize we never will.” She said that she never cries, but this situation had brought her to tears often. “I don’t want to sound negative or not hopeful for the future, but it’s so hard to be positive when our coach’s style is to constantly punish and criticize. My hope (in speaking out) is that we can have a healthy environment to play the sport we love,” she said.
Later, Lexi told Saratoga TODAY that she is planning to play soccer on the Varsity team next season, but is unsure of what atmosphere she will be facing. Nonetheless, “I stand up for myself and my teammates because it’s the right thing to do.”
Following the students’ statements, three fathers - Rick Matteson, Rob Camoin and Joe Sirianni, all with daughters who had played on the Varsity team under Coach Dannehy, in turn spoke in support of the coach and their child’s experiences. Sirianni, who was also the Soccer Booster Club President, noted that he could “…fill the (auditorium) with people who have had positive experiences” with Coach Dannehy.
Coach Rich Johns spoke about the dangers of minimizing or marginalizing the player’s statements. “What you are seeing in front of you is real,” he said, and praised the girl’s courage. “When faced with vertical aggression, it’s important to come up with a plan of action and put it into place.” Coach Johns, noting that he had recently visited South Glens Falls High School, where a seventh grade student had recently committed suicide, said further, “I’m proud the girls came forward. It’s up to us as adults to come up with a way to get them out of a dark place. Let us look at this as an opportunity, an opening to a new beginning.”
“Empathy is very important here,” Coach Johns continued, “… the culture that students who speak up are placed in jeopardy has been with us for quite awhile.” He further went on to praise the efforts of SSHS Athletic Director Peter Sheehan, of whom he said, “…inherited this culture and is making great efforts to eliminate it.”
Rob Blunt, who coaches a local club soccer team, in addition to having a daughter on the Varsity Soccer team, offered this perspective: “…I have had the opportunity to coach many of the women who spoke tonight, as well as several of the daughters of the gentlemen who spoke in favor of the program. And I do not doubt that their daughters, like mine, were not treated like the players who spoke tonight. But does that make it right?”
“I suggest,” Blunt concluded, “that every player on the team should have the opportunity to play the game they love and represent their school without feeling ridiculed.”
For his part, Athletic Director Peter Sheehan acknowledged that he was constrained by the necessary confidential nature of an investigation in process, involving his office and school administration. But he stated that “We have been aware of this situation, which has been under confidential investigation, and are continuing to look into this matter,” Sheehan said. “We do intend to make the necessary adjustments as needed.”
The issue of Coach Dannehy’s behavior came under increased scrutiny in December of 2015. Several student-athletes, after attending a DASA (Dignity for All Students Act) presentation in a physical education class, reached out to the SSHS DASA Coordinator. Since that time, letters were sent to the Athletic Director and School Superintendents by parents, with follow up contacts with the Superintendents throughout 2016, expressing their concerns. These parents said they had been told that the matter was being handled – but behind closed doors. A May 5 email to the Board of Education from Hannah Pendergast’s mother, Ann Marie, requested the Board get involved in this situation, and “act and respond prior to any vote to approve coaching appointments for Fall 2016,” and led to the students’ appearance before the Board on May 10.
After the Board meeting, Lexi Bakkalapulo’s mother, Tina Smith, expressed her frustration and sadness with the chain of events to date: “I never thought I would find myself asking the educational system to protect the safety and well-being of my daughter and her teammates from one of their employees.”
This is a story in process. Even if you believe that responsible people have been put in responsible positions, and ultimately will do responsible things, it is a situation worth watching going forward.