If you’re like me, some days, a half hour on the treadmill can feel like Olympic-level exertion. The idea of competitive running is probably just as unfathomable to you as it is to me—on par, maybe, with winning at the racetrack or doing your own stunts à la Tom Cruise. But if you’re a fan of high school athletics in Saratoga, you know that running—and most importantly, winning—has seemingly come easy for the Saratoga Springs High School cross-country team. The team’s one constant since the mid-’80s? The dynamic duo of Coaches Art and Linda Kranick. The couple started coaching cross-country and track at Saratoga Springs High School 33 years ago and have since helped the home team fill a case with trophies and medals from many national and state championships—which are conveniently advertised on a sign near the entrance of the Saratoga Spa State Park. They remain every bit as committed to “the kids,” as they refer to their student-athletes.
What struck me about the Kranicks is their quiet modesty, despite all they’ve achieved for the Blue Streaks and multiple generations of Saratoga athletes, not to mention the accolades they’ve scooped up for themselves—among them, induction into the National Track and Field Hall of Fame in New York City and titles including National Coach of the Year and New York State Cross-Country Coach of the Year.
I caught up with the Linda and Art Kranick to find out about living their life on the fast track.
ON THEIR COACHING PHILOSOPHY
It’s very basic: If you want to succeed, you have to put in the time and effort. We put in the work that we expect the kids to put in. One of the things we try to teach the kids is don’t take the easy way out. You don’t need to win trophies—do it for yourself, to make yourself a better person. Hopefully, we can influence them and make our little part of the world a better place. The things you learn—commitment, dedication, persistence, setting goals and achieving them—translate to later in life.
ON THEIR FONDEST MEMORIES AS COACHES
There are so many that don’t involve training or the meets or winning. It’s about life experiences. We’ve been to 39 weddings of former athletes, with three more this fall. And we have children of former athletes and students on our teams now. That’s exciting. We get to travel everywhere with our teams. This past January, we went to Scotland with Kelsey Chmiel, the first-ever American to win the Great Edinburgh International Cross-Country Challenge.
ON BEING COACHES THAT HAPPEN TO BE MARRIED
We were at a coaching clinic in California together, and one of the coaches said, “How do a husband and wife work together?” We’ve known each other since we were 14. We’re not only husband and wife, we’re best friends.
ON THEIR ADVICE FOR ASPIRING MARATHONERS
If you’re going to take it seriously, you’ve got to put in the mileage—and make sure you’re eating enough. That’s one of the things we stress to the kids: You have to eat, because you’re burning a lot of calories out there. You’ve also got to have proper footwear—and don’t forget to hydrate. I would tell adults all the same things we tell the kids.
ON THEIR CONTINUED SOURCE OF MOTIVATION
One of the benefits of coaching for so long is watching the kids you coached grow up to be terrific adults. We keep in touch with them, and they always say thank you to us. That’s when we realize what we’re in it for.