Photos: At lower right, Kinetic RC's 2022 NXN National Champions; at left: Kinetic RC's 2004 NTN National Champs. Photos courtesty of RunnerSpace.com and DyeStat.com.
Linda Kranick remembers it well, how this amazing Nike Cross Nationals meet first was spoken into existence, 19 years ago, among several coaches gathered at Balboa Park the day before the 2003 Foot Locker Finals.
“(NSAF CEO) Josh Rowe (then of Nike) was talking with us, asking us what we’d think about a high school national team XC championship,” she recalls. “He wanted to know whether Art and I and other coaches like Danny Green (The Woodlands) wanted that and, if we were on board, they could make it happen.”
“We said absolutely yes.”
Art and Linda Kranick already arguably had the top prep XC program in the country, their Saratoga H.S. (NY) girls’ team having been ranked #1 nine times since 1993 by Marc Bloom and The Harrier magazine Super 25. But if a championship could be created that could settle it on the course, then why not?
A year later, the Kranicks’ Kinetic RC squad won the first NTN Girls Championship at Portland Meadows. Their boys captured the title a year later while the girls were runner-up. Then, in 2006, the Fayetteville-Manlius girls began a streak of 11 victories in 12 years.
But now in 2022, this past weekend, the Kranicks and Kinetic celebrated back-to-back championships, the COVID gap bridging their 2019 victory with the new one. Yes, 18 years after they won the first NTN, the program has reached a new peak of domination on the national scene.
Some XC pundits have complained that Saratoga’s middle-school and underclass talent peaks early and then plateaus. They haven’t looked very closely.
“This is a very mature and experienced group,” Kranick said of a squad that has five juniors and seniors in its top seven. “We had confidence in them. This is the 4th time the twins (McKinley and Sheridan Wheeler) have been to NXN and the 3rd time for Emily Bush. This is a team with multiple leaders that has gotten stronger and stronger.”
As she told DyeStat.com, the one thing the team did not have recent experience with was competing in a mega race surrounded by other runners. Racing in their home state, usually Saratoga took most of the spots in the top 10-20. In Portland, its top five finished between 30th-59th, but were 9th-27th in the scoring with just a 23-second spread.
“We managed it quite well,” said Kranick. Kinetic tallied 81 points, 28 up on runner-up Niwot (CO).
Regarding whether she could have imagined in 2004 that she and her husband would still be training national champions 18 years later, Kranick said simply, “Well, we don’t really think that way. We just focus on what we’re doing at the present. We take it season by season and don’t project ahead.
“We pretty much do things the same as we always have.”
There’s one significant difference that perhaps has elevated the Saratoga/Kinetic girls to a new peak in the past 3-5 years. “We no longer coach the boys,” says Kranick. “We’re able to focus just on the girls’ team and it’s less stressful.”
Perhaps the real “secret,” if there is one, is a husband-wife coaching team that just seems to keep getting better and never get old. “We’ve been married 51 years and we each know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Art does the workouts, he’s the mastermind, and I take care of everything he doesn’t want to do.”
It’s been 29 years since they coached their first U.S. #1 team, but there’s not yet any finish line in sight for the Kranicks and their program. “It never gets boring and we have a tremendous passion for what we do.”