LAS VEGAS, NV — Two members of the Alliance NEBJJ team, part of the larger Saratoga Academy of Martial Arts at Ndakinna Education Center, came up big at the 2023 World Master IBJJF Jiu-Jitsu Championship in Las Vegas.
Kristen LeClair won a gold medal in the Master 4 Blue Belt Light-Feather division, while Dan Ladd earned a bronze medal in the Master 1 Brown Belt Ultra-Heavy division.
The event was part of the larger Jiu-Jitsu CON, which gathered 11,000 attendees in total, becoming the largest jiu-jitsu event in history, according to a press release from IBJJF.
LeClair said the experience was “crazy.”
“That whole experience was really cool,” LeClair said. “Just the atmosphere was really energetic, and really cool to be there. That many mats lined up, and that many people competing, it was awesome.”
“It was truly an eye-opening experience,” Ladd added. “Especially the magnitude of talent that was there. Being a new brown (belt), I felt like I didn’t belong, but this whole tournament was eye-opening. … It was probably the best thing I’ve ever been around in a grappling sense.”
The World Masters are world championships for ages 30 and up, said Jim Bruchac, Saratoga Academy of Elite Martial Arts head instructor. Ladd, a brown belt, competed in the Master 1 division (ages 30-35), while LeClair, a blue belt at the time, competed in Master 4 (ages 45-50).
While LeClair’s division was small in numbers, it had no shortage of competition, including Angela Christene May, who entered the tournament ranked #1 in the division worldwide, Bruchac said.
LeClair advanced to the championship with a dominant 26-0 win in the semifinals, and beat Laura Elizabeth Kotcher 5-0 in the championship match to earn her gold medal. With the gold medal finish, she became the top-ranked competitor in her division worldwide, said Bruchac.
LeClair also did not allow an opponent to record even a single point against her between both the World Masters and the New York International Open, which was held in August, Bruchac said. In addition to the gold, she earned another prize, receiving a promotion to purple belt following the victory.
“We were going to schedule to test her,” said Bruchac. “Usually, Alliance, we test people. We have international curriculum, certain criteria for each rank.”
However, after the victory, LeClair received her purple belt at a celebration with fellow team members.
“I ended up doing the whole speech about how we’re testing people at the end of the month, and Alliance has these standards, we need to meet certain things for rank,” Bruchac said. “And obviously, we’re not going to test you unless you’re ready. And then I basically just said, ‘Sometimes, winning the Worlds is test enough.’”
Making the victory even more impressive was the fact that LeClair entered the tournament with a broken toe, which she said was taped.
Photo provided by Jim Bruchac.
For Ladd, he had been a purple belt for several years, but was promoted to brown belt roughly two and a half months before the World Masters, Bruchac said. Entering the tournament, he had not competed at an IBJJF tournament since he was a blue belt, a level below purple.
Ladd won his first match, 5-0, and earned a 6-4 victory in his second matchup. And while Ladd lost in the semifinals, his loss came against Nsima Abasi Inyang, the eventual champion in his division.
Bruchac referred to it as “a good loss,” noting that Inyang submitted all of his opponents leading up to the finals, and that Ladd had been a brown belt for a much shorter time than many of his opponents.
“Some of these guys have been brown belts for years, too, and have competed a ton more,” Bruchac said.
But competing wasn’t Ladd’s only role at the tournament. He also coached LeClair, helping her earn her gold-medal finish.
“He’s an awesome coach,” LeClair said.
“Talk about karma,” added Bruchac. “He ended up getting his well-deserved bronze, and he coached her to gold.”
Ladd’s coaching role is just another example of the community aspect of the Alliance team and the Saratoga Academy as a whole. LeClair and her husband, Ryan, who also trains with Alliance NEBJJ, helped sponsor Ladd and pay for his travels to the tournament, Bruchac said.
“This place is a family. It really is,” said Ladd. “I have made lifelong connections here.”
While LeClair was dominant at the World Masters, she credited the victory to the team as a whole.
“This accomplishment is definitely part of this team,” said LeClair. “(We have) the greatest coaches, the greatest teammates. I’m usually the oldest and the smallest on the mat, and they know exactly how to test me and push me.”
Ladd said his bronze-medal finish came with a feeling of “validation.”
“I feel like I can compete with most people as long as I’m in a good mindframe. It doesn’t matter the rank,” Ladd said. “I wouldn’t have done this if it wasn’t for (LeClair and Bruchac). Not only being there financially … but supporting me on and off the mat.”
Alliance, which consists of teams around the world, captured the male team championship overall at the World Masters for the second year in a row, said Bruchac, and finished second in the female team championship.
And though this year was the first appearance at World Masters for both athletes, Ladd said it will not be their last. Bruchac noted that 11-year-old Raymond Melancon IV also competed in Jiu-Jitsu CON’s youth division, coming just short of earning a medal. Bruchac said they hope to bring more youth division competitors to the event in future years, and added that the pair of medalists have inspired him to return to the event as well.
“Yeah, definitely going to go back next year,” LeClair added. “Hopefully we’ll bring a good team.”
“As a team, I think we’re just going to continue to do what we do,” Ladd said. “We have a curriculum here that is based for success and proven track record, not only with just us, but with the system itself. I think the tournament team next year will be tremendous improvement in the sense of size and skill.”
SCHUYLERVILLE — The Schuylerville varsity football team is off to a strong start in 2023, and has their sights set high. However, head coach John Bowen said the Black Horses are simply focused on “winning this day.”
After an appearance in the Section II Class C Championship in 2022, the Black Horses have stampeded out of the gates this season, earning wins in each of their first three games.
Schuylerville opened the year with a 34-32 victory over Fonda-Fultonville, earning a 40-0 victory over Cobleskill-Richmondville in Week One before moving to 3-0 with a 46-21 win over Johnstown last week.
In the season opener against Fonda, the Black Horses built a 20-0 lead before the Braves rallied back. Eventually trailing 32-27, a touchdown pass from Luke Sherman to Sam Dwyer proved to be the game winner for Schuylerville. Bowen said the season-opening win was “a good test for both our squads of what our kids are made of.”
“We were certainly happy with the boys’ resilience,” said Bowen of the Week Zero win. “I just was very happy with the way that our guys got up off the mat. We played very poorly at the back half of the fourth quarter, and Fonda certainly took advantage of big situations, and made big plays. We just had to find one more big play at the end of that game, and Luke Sherman and the rest of the crew, Sam Dwyer, just did a fantastic job of doing that.”
Bowen said the team has a strong group of returning players, including Sherman and Dwyer. He also made note of Martin Flanders, Jr., and three-year starters Landen Cumm, Chase DeLisle, and Josh Bowen.
“Martin is certainly going to be someone here at the end of the year that I think people are going to look back on and recognize how good of a season he had,” Bowen said. “(Landen is) going to be a guy that we’re going to put a lot of emphasis on there as well.”
The Black Horses have utilized a strong running attack thus far, with Bowen also highlighting the team’s offensive line, consisting of Drew Carpenter, DeLisle, Josh Merrill, Josh Bowen, and Sam Renner.
Bowen said the coaching staff has emphasized the “brotherhood” of the team, getting them to play for each other.
“It’s something that we’ve really tried to put an onus on,” said Bowen. “Getting out of that individualistic mindset, and really finding a larger cause, that being the brotherhood, and the team.”
And while Bowen acknowledged that a return to the Class C title game is a “long-term goal,” he said the Black Horses are just looking to take things day by day.
“We talk every day about winning this day,” Bowen said. “Today, we’re going to go out to practice, and that’s going to be our sole and primary focus, is winning today’s practice. If we put a whole bunch of those types of practices together, Friday nights are going to start to take care of themselves. And then whatever happens beyond the regular season … No matter what’s presented to us, we feel if we take that approach, we’ll be prepared for it.”
SARATOGA SPRINGS — While Saratoga Springs has long been known as a tourism destination, it has not necessarily been due to the area’s cycling roads and trails. But a new event held by Bikeatoga and the Saratoga Regional YMCA is hoping to change that.
Bikeatoga and the YMCA are teaming up to host the first annual Saratoga Foliage Ride on Oct. 7 and 8. Three different routes are offered on each of the two days, at distances of 30, 50, and 75 miles.
Ed Lindner, advocacy chair of Bikeatoga, said that while the event is a fundraiser, it is also “an opportunity” to showcase the area’s cycling roads.
“Saratoga’s such a great draw in and of itself,” said Lindner. “People know the racetrack, they know SPAC, they know our award-winning downtown. But our cycling routes are a little bit of a secret, and so we hope to change that.”
Each day’s routes provide a unique experience for riders, beginning on Saturday, Oct. 7. Lindner noted this is the 246th anniversary of the end of the Battle of Saratoga, and said Saturday’s 50- and 75-mile routes will travel through the Saratoga National Historical Park, where a re-enactment will be taking place.
“So there will be re-enactors, Continentals and Redcoats, in the park firing off muskets and cannons as people ride through,” said Lindner.
A rest stop will be provided at the Saratoga Battle Monument on Saturday. Sunday’s routes will venture further east, including parts of the Empire State Trail and Champlain Canal Trail, with a rest stop to be provided at King Brothers Dairy in Schuylerville, said Lindner.
“That’s just a lot of really beautiful rolling hills, farmland,” Lindner said of the Sunday routes. He emphasized the rides are not races, with participants able to start and ride at their own pace.
Full SAG support will also be offered for riders. The Saratoga Foliage Ride will have volunteer support from the Saratoga Shredders Mountain Bike Club and members of local schools’ National Honor Societies. Sue Commanda, outgoing chair of the Saratoga YMCA and co-president of the Saratoga Cycling Club, added that the event is also seeking additional volunteers.
Commanda said the YMCA and Bikeatoga teaming up for the event was “a natural partnership.” She noted that the Saratoga Cycling Club also assisted with designing the routes for rides.
“The Y is all about healthy living, and very supportive of Saratoga events,” Commanda said. “Bikeatoga has beautiful programs as far as their bike programs, making sure everybody has a bike to ride. And the Y has a scholarship program that they’re supporting, because nobody’s turned away.”
Prior to the rides, which begin at the YMCA, a buffet breakfast catered by 9 Miles East will be offered at the Saratoga YMCA’s outdoor pavilion, Lindner said. Riders can sign up for $99 per day, or $149 for both days, according to the registration link. Participants will receive a day pass to the YMCA, as well as an event t-shirt. A jersey can also be purchased, which was designed by artist John Coleman of Glens Falls.
The Foliage Ride was inspired by a similar ride held in Staunton, Virginia, called the Shenandoah Fall Bike Festival, Lindner said. He noted the Saratoga Foliage Ride has seen registrations from states such as Maine, Connecticut, New Jersey, and even as far as Florida.
“We really should be a cycling tourist destination,” said Lindner. “And we hope over the next couple of years to build this event into something like that.”
Proceeds raised by the event will support the YMCA’s financial assistance program, which provides scholarships for memberships and programs. Funds will also help support the Bikeatoga Workshop at St. Peter’s Church, which repairs donated bicycles and donates them back to members of the community.
Lindner said Bikeatoga donated more than 500 bikes to members of the community through the workshop last year. He said they are looking to have a successful inaugural event in hopes of growing the Saratoga Foliage Ride in future years.
“We love Saratoga. We really want to support the area in any way that we can,” Commanda added. “Bikeatoga does beautiful programs, and so does the Y, and they give back, which is wonderful … So seeing the event come together, but also sharing the beauty of Saratoga with other people from other states, is fun.”
More information on the Saratoga Foliage Ride is available at srymca.org/saratoga-foliage-ride.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — The Saratoga Bridges’ 23rd annual Great Pumpkin Challenge returns on Sept. 30, helping to raise money for Saratoga Bridges’ programs and staff.
But for one family and their friends, the event is also a special opportunity for remembrance.
In 2002, Julie Niles and Mark Pitts lost their daughter, Nora Ann Pitts, to complications of mitochondrial disease just before her third birthday. Several years later, when Caroline, their oldest daughter, began showing an interest in 5K races, the family said they eventually discovered the Great Pumpkin Challenge.
In the years since, they have been joined by friends and family at the annual event, wearing bunny ears while they run or walk in remembrance of Nora. The bunny ears are a nod to a photo of Nora that they said is meaningful to them.
“More and more people wanted to be a part of it, our friends and family,” said Niles. “Some years, we might have 20-plus people running with the ears. It’s just become a really nice way, for our friends and family, one way that they show support for us and they remember Nora.”
Nora Ann Pitts. Her parents Julie Niles and Mark Pitts, along with friends and family, participate in the Great Pumpkin Challenge each year while wearing bunny ears as a nod to this photo of Nora (Photo provided by Julie Niles and Mark Pitts).
They credited their friend, Paige Allen, for the idea of running and walking with the bunny ears. The event also typically falls close to Nora’s birthday, Oct. 25, although this year’s event was moved to an earlier date due to construction in the State Park, said Pamela Polacsek, Development and Foundation Director of Saratoga Bridges.
In addition to honoring and remembering Nora, the team’s participation also supports Saratoga Bridges.
“Given Nora’s condition, she passed away from complications of mitochondrial disease. It was a disease that took little pieces away from her,” Pitts said. “She was getting physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy. It kind of parallels what Saratoga Bridges offers. Had she survived, she probably would’ve been a part of this community.”
Pitts and Niles also have a son, Murdock. They credited their friends and family for their support, including Allen, who they said has helped organize the team through the years.
“It’s really been our friends and family that have kept it going,” said Niles. “It isn’t driven by us, but we, of course, are really happy to participate.”
They noted that friends and family have traveled from all over to participate through the years, including from Boston as well as states such as Virginia and New Hampshire.
Others who have experienced losses have also been included in the group, Niles said.
“We’ve kind of incorporated other people who’ve had losses at the same time, and try to remember them as we walk,” Niles said.
While many participating in the race do so in costume to celebrate the Halloween season, Pitts, Niles, and their friends and family can be spotted throughout the crowd of participants by the bunny ears they wear.
“It’s a good atmosphere at the race,” Niles said. “It’s a very simple costume, but you have people spread throughout the race. You see clumps of us here and there.”
“We have the bunny ears on for one purpose, and everybody else is dressed up for Halloween,” added Pitts. “Occasionally, we’ve had people that have asked, ‘What’s up?’”
Beginning at 9:30 a.m. on Sept. 30, the Great Pumpkin Challenge offers both a 5K and 10K, as well as a Kids’ Fun Run. The events are NET-chip timed, and begin at the Columbia Pavilion in the Saratoga Spa State Park.
Prizes are awarded to the top three male and female finishers. The event also includes costume and pumpkin contests, as well as giveaways, food, and refreshments, according to a press release.
Registration is $30, and available at saratogabridges.org. Online registration will close at 5 p.m. on Sept. 26. In-person registration will be offered Sept. 29 from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m., at 16 Saratoga Bridges Blvd in Ballston Spa.
A virtual option is also offered for $30. Funds raised by the Great Pumpkin Challenge support Saratoga Bridges’ underfunded or unfunded programs and activities, such as the Creative Endeavors Arts Center, in addition to supporting staff, said Polacsek.
Pitts and Niles said their group has also grown along with the Great Pumpkin Challenge through the years, with Niles saying it has now become “this big community of friends.”
“It’s so needed in the community,” said Niles of Saratoga Bridges’ programs. “We’re just so blessed to have a great circle of friends and family that support us, and the whole of Saratoga Bridges.”
BALLSTON LAKE — Originally established in 1948, this year marks Lakeside Farms’ 75th anniversary as a family-run business.
Lakeside was founded by Robert Pearce, along with his wife Agnes and son Dick, their website states. The family began making apple cider with a screw-driven press originally built in 1878, said Jeffrey Pearce, who is part of the third generation of the Pearce family to run the business.
Today, Lakeside includes a country store, restaurant, apple barn, gift shop, event space, and more, with Pearce saying Lakeside is “like 11 businesses all wrapped in one.”
“My grandfather always told me, ‘You put out a good product for a good, fair price, they’ll come knocking on your door,’” said Pearce. “I’ve always kept it that way.”
Pearce said he has been working at Lakeside for almost 60 of its 75 years, beginning as a young child working under his father, Dick Pearce.
“I just started to work, and my father gave me things to do at eight years old,” said Pearce. “I just worked up from there.”
The Pearce family moved Lakeside’s country store to the property’s carriage barn in the early 1960s, Pearce said.
“My grandparents started the cider mill, and put in a little store down back behind the store that’s already here,” Pearce said. “As we got bigger, we moved to the carriage barn, which is where it’s at right now.”
Today, Jeffrey Pearce operates the farm with his brother, Richie. Jeffrey’s wife, Denise, also works at Lakeside, while Jeffrey and Richie’s sister, Lisa Martin, works part-time at the farm.
In addition to their apple cider, Lakeside Farms includes a country store that offers a wide variety of products, such as fruits, vegetables, maple syrup, penny candy, and more. The country store also includes a deli, a bakery, and restaurant, roasting their own meat and selling a variety of burgers and sandwiches, and other products including bread, baked goods, and eggs.
The farm’s restaurant serves breakfast and lunch, and they offer a wide selection of apples, apple cider, and apple cider donuts from their apple barn.
Lakeside also includes Ye Olde Farmhouse Gift Shoppe, a farmhouse built in 1851, Pearce said, that was converted into a shop offering an assortment of gifts, decorations, clothing, jewelry, candles, and more, many of which are locally or American-made.
Lakeside served 130,000 people in nine months last year, Pearce said. He noted their apple barn has recently opened for the fall season. The apple barn and gift shop will remain open through Dec. 24, while the remainder of the property will remain open through Nov. 26, according to Denise Pearce.
While Pearce acknowledged it is demanding work, putting in up to 90 or 100 hours a week, he also said it is fulfilling, and said he has “been treated very well.”
“Yesterday I got up at 3:00, and got home last night at 5:30,” Pearce said. “It’s a long day, but when you get to see what you’ve accomplished during the day, you smile.”
He also added that, “The business runs you, you don’t run it.”
“Sit back, look, and listen, and the business will tell you what has to be done,” said Pearce. “You work it, but it tells you what has to be done.”
Through the years, Pearce said that in addition to family and employees, the farm has also received help from friends and neighbors, such as Lee Davenport, who Pearce said worked for Lakeside roughly 20 years ago and still returns to assist the Pearce family and their employees.
“He went out on his own, and he comes back and helps me,” Pearce said. “He’s like a brother to me.”
Pearce gave credit to the farm’s employees, saying, “They put their heart and soul into it.”
“If you’ve got people that are positive with you, I’ve got a few people that are, it makes it a lot easier,” said Pearce. “It’s nice to have people that love your business as much as you do.”
SARATOGA SPRINGS — A temporary special use permit application for Saratoga Cannabis Co., what could be Saratoga Springs’ first licensed recreational cannabis dispensary, was approved by the City of Saratoga Springs Planning Board at their meeting on Thursday, Sep. 7.
The temporary permit comes with several conditions from the Planning Board, including a queuing and striping plan for pedestrian safety. The temporary permit will be issued for a period of 12 months, the Planning Board said, at which point the company’s ownership group, consisting of Jody Cracco, Brittany Cracco, and Marcy Leventhal, will have to re-apply for a permanent special use permit.
Plans for the dispensary, which will be located in the West Hill Plaza on West Ave, were initially filed under the name Reverie Dispensary, but the group recently changed the name to Saratoga Cannabis Co., said Brittany Cracco. The Cracco family also owns and operates Dairy Haus and Doggy Playcare, both located in Wilton.
Plans presented to the board at the Sep. 7 meeting detailed several sales methods in addition to standard physical sales, including a digital queuing system that will use an app allowing customers to wait in their vehicles and receive a notification when their order can be picked up, according to the filed plans.
The dispensary plans to operate from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays, and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, the Craccos said.
Jody Cracco said the 12-month temporary permit will allow the group to observe what business looks like at the dispensary during all four seasons.
“I’m glad they gave us the 12 months too, because we want to know what every season looks like,” said Jody Cracco. “That is the reason why we have the team that we have. We have the experience on our team. They’ve been here before, in many states, many times.”
The Cracco’s partner, Marcy Leventhal, has been in the cannabis industry for over 20 years, and has worked in the field across 22 different states, she told Saratoga Today in July.
Brittany Cracco said the group is “grateful” to receive the approval from the City.
“The town wants what’s best, and they want to be safe and cover all their bases, and that’s what we want to do too,” Brittany Cracco said. “This is a new use coming. It’s a new thing altogether that, like they said in there, nobody really knows what it looks like, and compliance is really big with us. … So the fact that they were really open-minded in allowing this, we’re grateful.”
But while they have received Planning Board approval, the group said they are still unsure when they will be able to open due to uncertainties surrounding a lawsuit filed against the State. According to a CBS News report, the State is currently blocked from processing licenses as a result of the suit, but can issue exemptions to applicants that meet the qualifications.
Each license will be re-examined on a “case-by-case basis,” said Jody Cracco.
“Basically as to how far along in the process that you are,” Brittany Cracco added. “So they will give us the go-ahead to keep going.”
The ownership group stated their goal is to be prepared to open “as soon as possible.”
“We aren’t going to linger, let’s just put it that way,” Jody Cracco said. “A number of things will take place while we are waiting, and that is getting everything in place so that when we get the go-ahead, everything then starts moving as quickly as possible.”
SCHUYLERVILLE — The Schuylerville Central School District’s 2023 Kickin’ Out Cancer event is set to be held Oct. 3, taking place in honor of longtime teacher Dave Mehan, who died of cancer in August.
Taking place during the Schuylerville varsity boys’ soccer game against South Glens Falls, proceeds raised during the event will be donated to the Schuylerville Elementary School Kindness Closet, which is set to be established in Mehan’s memory.
Schuylerville CSD Superintendent Gregg Barthelmas said it is a fitting tribute, noting that Mehan was, “everything you’d want in a teacher and a person.”
“He meant everything to the school,” said Barthelmas. “He was fun, kind, loved by staff, loved by students, loved by community members. ...People were always excited to go to his classroom. He was always kind of a jokester. He made learning fun.”
Mehan spent 26 years in the district, beginning in 1997 as a co-kindergarten teacher, eventually moving to fourth grade. He also coached a variety of sports through the years, including modified track and field, modified boys soccer, and varsity girls soccer, in addition to helping with the elementary school ski club, S.A.F.E.R. food drives, and serving on the Schuylerville Teachers Association.
Barthelmas said Mehan’s sense of humor was “uncanny,” with he and Shannon Vallee, first grade teacher and Varsity Club Advisor, noting Mehan also enjoyed dressing up during the holidays.
“St. Patrick’s Day, he was always dressed up as a leprechaun,” Vallee said. “He definitely had a connection with kids. One of my own children had him as a teacher, and she had a really good time that year.”
Over the years, Mehan was able to make a tremendous impact on students, with Vallee noting his enthusiasm could influence some kids to come to school when they otherwise might not have wanted to.
“All of his students, the students that really needed his help, they thrived over those years that he was their teacher,” said Vallee. She noted Mehan, along with friends and fellow teachers Pat Whalen and Chad Jorgensen, were constantly “laughing and having fun times.”
The Kickin’ Out Cancer event, which has been held by the district for over a decade, raised over $6,000 last year, Vallee said. This year includes the sponsors Sol Enterprises/Schuylerville Pizza & Pasta, and Document Tailors.
The event will include basket raffles put together by grade levels and departments around the district, a 50/50 raffle, and a ‘glowstick walk’. Proceeds from the school’s concession stand will also be donated to the Elementary School Kindness Closet.
Donations will also be taken at the Schuylerville girls varsity soccer game against Scotia-Glenville on Sept. 30 at Schuyler Park. Vallee said the boys varsity soccer team will be on hand to accept donations, and said basket raffles will also be set up, allowing spectators to purchase a ticket that will be drawn at the boys soccer game on Oct. 3.
“It brings the community together,” said Schuylerville varsity boys soccer head coach David Gauci of the event. “I think it’s a good thing for everyone involved. … It’s rewarding at the end.”
Gauci said opposing teams have also been involved in past years, wearing colors in support of the event. Vallee noted it will help launch the Schuylerville Elementary School Kindness Closet, which is intended to be established in honor of Mehan.
“This is really going to jump-start what we can put in the closet, decorate the closet,” Vallee said. “It’s going to be good for the school.”
Like Mehan, Vallee is a graduate of Stillwater High School, and emphasized it is meaningful to honor her former colleague.
“He has a huge community of friends, just up and down the river,” said Valle. “He touched our community, he touched this community, and he touched his home community as well.”
Barthelmas, who started working in the district alongside Mehan in 1997, said the two eventually became good friends. Noting Mehan was the type of person to “give you the shirt off his back,” Barthelmas said the event in his honor is thematic.
“If you think about it, it’s what he did,” said Barthelmas. “We try to represent it as how they conducted themselves. … In this way, (giving) back is Dave Mehan. That’s how I see it.”
SARATOGA SPRINGS — The week of Eric Hayden’s first game as head coach of the Saratoga Springs varsity football team was certainly an eventful one.
On Thursday, Aug. 31, Hayden and his wife Danielle welcomed their second child, Bo Michael Hayden. The Haydens also have a two-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Payton.
Less than two days later, Hayden was on the sideline for his first victory as the Blue Streaks’ head coach, a 35-7 win over Albany.
“Definitely an eventful week,” said Hayden. “Not a lot of sleeping, but a lot of great things happening. When you get to hold your baby boy for the first time, and everyone’s got good health coming out, that’s just an amazing experience.”
Hayden credited his assistant coaches for their help preparing for the season-opening win over the Falcons.
“Our staff is amazing, with John Barber, Jon Coons, and Craig Durant,” Hayden said. “They had everything set up, they were in a great spot. I tip my hat to them, because I couldn’t do it without them.”
Prior to taking over the program, Hayden was an assistant coach with the Blue Streaks, coaching the offensive and defensive lines as well as special teams, he said.
This week, Saratoga begins Class AA play, hosting Ballston Spa (1-1) on Thursday night. The Blue Streaks are coming off a 21-20 loss against Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake last week.
In 2022, the Blue Streaks finished 5-5, falling in the Section 2 Class AA Playoffs to CBA.
Hayden said that while the Blue Streaks have a talented group, it is also one without a ton of experience. He said he is excited to watch the team grow throughout the season, noting that, “The sky’s the limit for the group here.”
“Very coachable kids that work very hard, and every day you see them growing,” said Hayden. “Every day, you see a new lightbulb that just went on. …They can be a dangerous group, because you just don’t know what to expect.”
Hayden said the team has a strong group of returning players, naming defensive end/tight end/wide receiver Christian Mello, running back/receiver Rodell Evans III, quarterback Jack Rigabar, receiver/safety Caleb Casey, and center Jayden Cox among others.
Hayden also said the team’s defensive backfield is strong this year, and said the Blue Streaks’ wide receiver group does “a phenomenal job too.
“I really like what our defensive backfield has to offer,” said Hayden. “The style of defense that we play, those guys all have to be able to cover and tackle. This group that we have is pretty good at it, and pretty special at it.”
Throughout summer practices leading up to the team’s season opener, Hayden said some of his main points of emphasis were conditioning and limiting penalties.
“The big message we sent in camp is we have to practice harder than the games,” said Hayden. “I told them, ‘If you’re in better shape and you can limit the penalties, you’re in good shape.’”
The Blue Streaks open league play tonight with a Route 50 rivalry game and a goal of returning to the postseason, with Hayden saying, “This team is hungry.”
“They’ve seen what they can do. We really started building the momentum last year,” Hayden said. “They have that very much in their eyes right now. It’s cool that we have a good amount of guys coming back that have been there, because now they know what it takes. Hopefully they can teach our young guys that as well.”
SCHENECTADY — The Schenectady 2023 Walk to End Alzheimer’s is set to take place Sept. 30 at Mohawk Harbor, offering those affected by the disease a chance to come together, raising money and awareness.
The Walk to End Alzheimer’s is the world’s largest event dedicated to fighting Alzheimer’s, with walks taking place “around the globe,” said Marisa Korytko, marketing and public relations director of the Alzheimer’s Association Northeastern New York Chapter.
The Northeastern New York chapter is hosting five walks in the region, beginning with the Schenectady walk on Sept. 30 at Mohawk Harbor. Other walks will be held Oct. 14 in Queensbury and Hudson, Oct. 21 in Albany, and Oct. 28 in Cooperstown, according to the Alzheimer’s Association website.
“It’s a way for the community to really come together,” said Korytko. “Our executive director always says that she thinks of it as the world’s largest support group, because you see people who are coming back time and time again, because they have formed these friendships with people who have gone through the same things that they have gone through.”
Mary Rose Petrozola, who is a volunteer on the Schenectady Walk to End Alzheimer’s Committee and a team captain of a walk team, said supporting the cause is something she has felt passionate about, “for a long time.”
“It’s one of more important things I feel like I can do,” Petrozola said. “It’s just a very important cause for me to be a part of. My grandfather, who the team is named in honor of, passed from complications of the disease. So it’s important for me to do whatever I can to be able to, again, raise awareness and further educate people the best I can.”
Her team, Alz Well EEG, formed in 2020 in honor of her grandfather, Edward Elmer Gordon. The team name is a nod to him, including his initials, E.E.G., and a reference to the William Shakespeare play, ‘All’s Well That Ends Well.’
Petrozola said she has perceived strong support from the community, noting that the disease’s reach is widespread.
“It’s always a surprise from year to year, how many people this touches,” said Petrozola. “Everybody basically has, or knows of, somebody that’s touched by this disease.”
Petrozola’s team showcases a great example of community support, having partnered with Schenectady restaurant Simone’s Kitchen to offer an ‘Alz Well’ bowl throughout the month of September, she said.
“Bashir (Chedwaree), who is one of their part-owners, he is making an Alz Well bowl,” Petrozola said. “The entire month of September, he will run that special bowl, and proceeds specifically from that bowl will go to benefit my walk team.”
Participants can register individually, or sign up with a group as a team. Registration or donations for the Schenectady walk can be done online at act.alz.org/schenectady23, or in-person on the day of the event. Information on all five area walks is available at act.alz.org/neny.
The walk begins at Mohawk Harbor and isw roughly one mile long, said Korytko. The event also includes a mini-walk of roughly one-tenth of a mile. Registration for the event begins at 10 a.m., at which time numerous sponsor tables will be set up with various resources.
The opening ceremony will begin at 11 a.m., with the walk itself immediately following.
The Schenectady walk also includes a Promise Garden ceremony, where walkers carry different flower colors to signal their connection to Alzheimer’s. While Korytko said it can be, “heartbreaking,” to see the amount of purple flowers, signifying those who have lost someone to the disease, she added that one of the Alzheimer’s Association’s goals is to help find a cure.
“I think what we are trying to look for is the end to this disease, when there will be no more purple flowers,” Korytko said. “We’re looking to the time where there is that first survivor of this disease.”
While fundraising for participants is not required to join the walk, it is encouraged. The Schenectady walk has a fundraising goal of $150,000. Funds raised locally help the Northeastern New York chapter provide programs and services to families in the area going through Alzheimer’s, said Korytko, and also help the Alzheimer’s Association to fund research.
Korytko emphasized that strong steps in research have been taken over recent years, providing what she called, “a layer of hope,” to the Walks.
"We still need to keep fighting, and we still need to keep investing in research,” said Korytko. “But I feel like there is a lot more hope, because of some of the progress and the research that we’ve made in the past few years.”
She said it is rewarding to see the impact of the Walks, noting the disease has an extensive reach.
“When you’re on the stage, and you look out and you see people holding their flowers, it just makes you realize how pervasive this disease is, and how it impacts so many of the members of our community,” Korytko said. “It’s a very rewarding experience, because I know these people are getting support, and that they’re feeling like they’re not alone. … I think that the more that we see that other people are in our situation and are in our shoes, the more we feel like we can ask for help.”
Click HERE to donate to Team Alz Well EEG.
BALLSTON SPA — Coming off a strong 2022 season in Class A, the Ballston Spa varsity football team is back in Class AA this year and looking to take things “a day at a time.”
Scotties’ head coach Jason Ohnsman acknowledged the Class AA schedule will be a “week-in, week-out gauntlet of quality competition.”
“It’ll be different, and it’s something that not a lot of these kids have ever experienced,” said Ohnsman. “But definitely something we’re looking forward to.”
While the Scotties graduated a strong 2022 class that included players such as Darrien Insogna, Aidan Davis, Isaac Turenne, and Troy Gottmann, the team also has a strong group of returning players.
Ohnsman said impact players for Ballston Spa this year will include quarterback Nico Savini, receiver/linebacker Blaine Zoller, and others including Brayson Cornick, Nick Orzel, Jacob Powell, Kala’i Makanani, and Michael Stamper.
“Having those guys back is always nice, because they kind of have a very calm demeanor about maybe more intense situations, because they’ve been there before,” Ohnsman said.
Cornick said the team is hoping to approach each game “one by one” throughout the season, something that was emphasized by Ohnsman.
“Defensively, we’re just trying to hit hard and compete,” Powell added. “Trying to dictate what the offense does, don’t let them dictate what we do.”
Ohnsman praised the team’s leaders for “setting a tone” throughout summer practices leading up to the Scotties’ Week Zero game against Liverpool (Sec. III), a 61-44 loss.
“Football can be tough, in the sense that it’s a lot of practicing, a lot of lifting, and you only get a couple games every year,” said Ohnsman. “We try to be very compartmentalized in the fact that we just want to focus on what we’re trying to accomplish today, because ultimately, if we can stack those days, we’ll be in good shape.”
Savini also said the team is aiming to take each game one by one, with Cornick adding that they are excited to compete.
“We’re all very close this year, so it’s like going out and playing with your best friends,” said Cornick. “It’s just fun.”
Ballston Spa hosts Amsterdam at 7 p.m. Friday. The Scotties will open Class AA play at Saratoga Springs the following week.
While the team is aiming for a playoff appearance, Ohnsman again emphasized that the Scotties are simply focusing on what is in front of them day to day.
“I’d be silly if I didn’t think these guys were thinking playoffs, but we’re trying to focus on getting there first,” Ohnsman said. “That’s a byproduct of our process. If we can handle the things we do day to day, week to week, then that ends up coming to fruition because of those things we’ve done previously.”