In a first-ever flashy beginning to the Empire State Winter Games, a torch relay began in Battery Park last Monday morning that will signal the beginning of the games Thursday evening when it reaches Lake Placid. Father and son runners Austin and Griffin Rynne bore the torch to the overlook at the Carmine Liberta Bridge in New Paltz on Tuesday morning, where games officials stopped for pictures with local dignitaries and trails advocates. According to Bridget Hinman, one of the team shepherding the torch across the state, the relay was started to promote outdoor activities in New York and the Empire State Trail which should be completed in 2020.
This will be the 38th winter games, and 2,500 athletes are slated to compete. Austin Rynne and his 14-year-old son Griffin are New Paltz residents with long histories of competitive racing, including events at Lake Placid and in the Survival of the Shawangunks triathlon. Their run on this chilly January day was relatively short, having received the torch just up the street at Trailways; after the photo-op at the bridge they handed it off to be carried up Historic Huguenot Street and then to Kingston. The torch did actually blow out on their way down, but for this relay it’s largely symbolic: longer stretches are actually taken by a bicyclist carrying an LED instead.
During the stop, Mayor Tim Rogers and Supervisor Neil Bettez highlighted the “world-class” trails for running and cycling in New Paltz. Rogers, himself a runner and cyclist, said he was “jealous” of the Rynnes for the honor they received, and added that he “wouldn’t want to live anywhere else in New York.”
Trail advocate Michael Reade also spoke briefly, and touched on the 25 years of volunteer effort which is only now culminating in a robust network of trails through the region.