GL’s Dante Fresecura Qualifies for the State Meet

Looking out across the big open field stood an array of colored uniforms as the boys anxiously awaited the start of the race. The last run outs and team huddles ended as a sign that the race would soon begin. The flag was lifted, the whistle blew, and the gun sounded as the boys took off down the open stretch. Dante Frescura near the front in hopes to qualify for the State meet.

On Friday, October 30, 2020, the Latrobe cross country team headed out to White Oak Park for their last race of the season, the WPIAL Championship. A few of the team’s top runners had a good chance of continuing their season by qualifying for the state meet even with more stringent regulations in 2020.

Due to Covid, the qualifying standards were more limited than usual. Instead of taking the top three teams and top fifteen individuals, the WPIAL was only taking the top team and the top ten individuals. In years past it was challenging enough to qualify, but this year was especially competitive.

On the boys side, Dante Frescura, Drew Kozuch, and Joseph Hill were all in contention to make states even under these strenuous conditions. It would not be easy, but based on the results from the Tri-State Meet, none of them were far off from what it would take to qualify. 

 Leading up to the day of the race, Coach Simpson sat down with Dante, Drew, and Joe telling them where they stood in the placings based on the Tri-State meet, who they needed to beat, and where they needed to come in to qualify. As a coach, Simpson kept the finish line in his strategic coaching. 

Dante had his own strategy for a good race.  He said, “In preparation for the meet, I ate pasta as well as got a good night’s sleep.”

Not only was it going to be tough to qualify, but the weather was not ideal for racing.In fact, the WPIAL race was scheduled for Thursday, October 29, but ended up being postponed until the next day due to all the rain. This made for a muddy slip and slide. 

It was always the boys’ tradition to wear the George Lazur uniforms for this special occasion instead of their regular checkerboards, which this year the girls decided to wear. Ironically, many people might assume that the GL on the uniforms stands for Greater Latrobe, but it actually represents George Lazur who won the State meet for Latrobe in 1951.

Race day was finally here and this was the time for all the hard work at practice to pay off.   “I was super nervous knowing that there was a slim chance I would qualify for the state meet, and after six years this could potentially be my last cross counrty race of my high school career,” stated Dante.

The gun sounded, the adrenaline rushed, and the boys were off. It was a quick start with the top pack running the first mile in the fours. Dante was about 40th, but along the way, many runners, who went out too fast for their ability, began to die out. As the race continued, Dante began to pick people off one by one, until he was in a pack of boys being in 15th place. Being in the range of 11-14 would probably send him to states as the top team, North Allegheny, would take their top boys out of the individual qualifications. Emotions of excitement and joy filled the crowd as they lined the finish to watch the boys give their last push to the end.

Dante ended up running a PR of 16:31 and finished in 12th place. After taking out the four boys North Allegheny had in the top, Dante was the 8th non-team individual, which meant he had made the cut. 

His coach, Todd Simpson, said, “Not to take anything away from the other runners, but if you would have told me Greater Latrobe would only have one runner qualify for states, my bet would have been on Dante because of his hard work and determination.”

He said, “I could not have had a better race.

“Going to the State meet has been a dream of mine since seventh grade. It truly didn’t hit me until that night, but I was excited”

— Dante Frescura

 “My uncle, Ron Moore inspired me to start running. He won States as a senior [at Hempfield] in 1986 and before every meet he calls me to wish me good luck. I could not wait to call him with this great news!”

In years past, Dante would peak by the middle of the season and hit a wall, but this year was different. “I didn’t have as much competition up front, with Joe and Justin being injured. Drew and I ran at the same level and I wanted to be the most valuable runner (MVR ), which pushed me to try and beat him,” said Dante

In a normal year, Drew Kozuch, Joseph Hill, and Clara Herr would have all qualified. Unfortunately due to Covid, none of them would be racing at the State meet. Coach Simpson was happy to announce that this was the most individuals he has ever had qualify in one year, which was a big accomplishment for him and the team. Sadly, just another opportunity Covid has taken from the team.

“I am excited and disappointed about the four individual qualifiers as Latrobe has never had that opportunity before. In 2019, only three made it to states. The chance to run at the state meet has been taken away from three of these runners due to Covid, but it can’t take away their accomplishments, which they should be really proud of,” said Simpson.

After it was all said and done, the team was glad they were able to have a season, although it was a little different than years prior. The team still got to enjoy many laughs, and memories together as they improved along the way. It would be hard to say goodbye to the seniors, as many of them had run on the team for five or six years. 

For Dante, his last race is not over just yet. He will continue practicing for the PIAA State Championship Meet taking place at Hershey on Saturday, November 7. He is super excited to have made it this far and in the end is hoping to finish in the top 75 cross country runners across the state of Pennsylvania in 2020 as he represents Greater Latrobe.