Kamarec no longer running on empty
WINTERSVILLE – Frank Kamarec finished his high school career at Indian Creek with 12 varsity athletic letters.
Others also have that number, but Kamarec’s road traveled was quite different.
He lettered four times in his first love – basketball, and lettered three times each in football and track.
But, he also lettered twice in cross country and those two, in his junior and senior years, are a reason why the graduate is headed to West Liberty University to run cross country and track.
Kamarec got together with Hilltoppers cross country coach Eric Laughlin (former cross country and track coach at Buckeye Local) through connections with Indian Creek teammate Max Lewis.
“Coach Laughlin is so excited to have me,” said Kamarec, who is undecided on his major. “I have never trained for cross country before, so the ceiling is high for me.”
It took some talking for Kamarec to run cross country as a junior.
Coach Jack Fluharty did his fair share of talking with Kamarec to get him to join the Redskins team, and Kamarec did his fair share of talking with football coach Andrew Connor to allow him to run.
“Coach Flu really had to use his words to get me out,” Kamarec said with a laugh. “He told me to come out to camp – ‘you’ll have fun.’ He said if I didn’t like it, I didn’t have to come back. I went and liked it, had fun with the other runners and stuck it out.
“At first, coach Connor was worried because cross country camp was the same time as doubles and I was getting tired. But, it all ended up good.”
“I was a little leery about the whole thing at the beginning,” said Connor. “From the standpoint of being a track coach at one time, I knew he could definitely do it physically, but there was also the injury factor. He played so hard in our football games and he expended so much energy. I know he got home Friday night and was really sore. But, he would get up Saturday morning and go run.
“And, he would do so without complaining about being sore. You never heard that from him.
Kamarec played wide receiver and defensive back and rarely came off the field.
“It was a rough sell,” Fluharty admitted. “He was all about football. He ran track his sophomore year and that gave me the time to bend his ear a little and tell him what a good runner he was. I told him that I thought he could do both.
“I knew he could not make practice and I knew he could not condition, but I knew that he could compete with the runners. And, in running that first meet when he was right there with the top of the pack, you could see him say, ‘Yeah, I am going to do this.’
“He was a little apprehensive at the beginning, getting up at 6 a.m. Saturday to run a cross country meet after a Friday night football game. But, then he did it and I think he realized how good he was.”
“Coach Connor did say, though, if I got hurt then he would kill me,” Kamarec said with a laugh.
Added Connor, “I knew track and cross country were very important to him. If he would have caught me in my first couple of years as the head coach, I would have flat out told him ‘no.’ But, I could see in his eyes how much wanted to do it. His parents were on board. Who am I to tell him no? I knew that if anybody could do it, Frankie could.
“There is that something in his work ethic. Every Saturday I worried because there were some Friday nights where he was completely exhausted. He did it and did it very well.
“Whatever may have happened to him on Friday night, whether he was beat up or tired, he never complained about it. He was able to balance it and I give him credit for that. He played just as hard as any football player I’ve ever had. We had some kids who were barely moving on Saturday morning in films, and Frankie would be out running 90 miles somewhere.
“I am happy for him and proud to be a part of his life.”
In reality, it was one race, according to Kamarec, that peaked his cross country interest.
And, that race, was in track his sophomore year.
“I didn’t run track my freshman year and I’m still not sure what I was thinking,” said Kamarec. “Coach Flu talked to me about running cross country and told me I would be good at it.
“My sophomore year at the Buckeye 8 championship, I asked coach Flu if I could run the two-mile. He let me do it and I came in second. I was actually really surprised about that. I never led the race, a kid from Union Local led the whole time. But, I was surprised I did as well as I did.
“I ran cross country my junior and senior years after that.
“I practiced with the cross country team as much as I could my junior year. This past year, there was no running. I just went to the meets and ran. I did no training at all.”
And, that included no track training during basketball season.
“Coach D (basketball coach Joe Dunlevy) said if he saw me running on the side of the road during basketball season, he would hit me with his car,” Kamarec laughed. “So, I definitely started after the season was over.”
He was all-OVAC, all-Buckeye 8 and all-OVTL in cross country his junior and senior years.
His best 5K is 16:45.0.
“I wonder how good Frankie could be when he’s not playing 12 sports,” said Connor. “He spread himself out so much here at Creek. I cannot imagine how good he will be when he’s down to a regiment of one thing – running.”
“Laughlin walked into a gold mine and he knows it,” said Fluharty, who figures that Kamarec has run about 17 times in cross country competition. “This kid has done no training and he’s this good. He’s never trained year-round. He’s been in every sport, and he’s always been going in different directions.
“Do you realize he’s never had a chance to run a cross country race fresh. He’s never run a 5K fresh against any competition. We don’t know yet what he can do. But, I can’t wait to see what he can run fresh.”
Kamarec admits this summer he has had to get used to the new him.
“One day this summer I woke up and I knew I had to get in the gym, then I thought, ‘wait, I don’t have to,'” he said. “I went to lift one day and saw the football players lift and was pretty glad right now that’s not me.
“I’ve played pick-up basketball games a couple of times over the summer.
“Being just a runner now is different, for sure.
“I don’t know yet what I can accomplish. But, with all of this running, I’ll definitely find out.”
Kamarec ran 2:01.14 (800), 4:28.90 (1600) and 10:16.0 (3200) in track and did so without year-round training.
“My favorite race was the 800, but the mile is the feel-good distance for me,” he said.
He admitted that he is looking forward to this new challenge.
“It will be interesting and different only doing one thing,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of help along the way with my parents, coaches, teammates and friends.
“They all have been great through all of this.
“I’ve talked to a lot of other cross country kids at Saturday meets and told them I played a football game last night and they said, ‘Our coach would never let us do that.’
“I am thankful I was able to do all of it.”