Dad carries the torch on the trails
By By Dan Fappiano • 09/30/2021 1:45 PM EST
With a few years of wrestling experience under his belt, Frank Papa decided to join the East Haven cross country program as a junior last fall. Frank quickly discovered that cross country was more than a way to stay in shape and became a leader for the Yellowjackets during his senior season.
Frank has always loved running, but had never participated in the sport before last year. As a member of the wrestling team, Frank and his teammates would run a 5K every summer. When the 2021 wrestling season was compromised due to COVID-19, Frank decided to take racing more seriously and signed up for the East Haven Boys’ Cross Country Team.
“We didn’t have a wrestling preseason and I knew I had to do something. I ended up joining cross-country skiing, ”says Frank. “It was something new. It woke me up when I saw all these people running. Some of these guys run 5 km in 15 minutes.
As he began to run more, Frank realized how the sport helped him develop as an athlete. Frank says participating in cross country is one of the best workouts for him because it involves every muscle in the body.
Frank was the only junior on the men’s cross country team last year. The other four team members were all seniors. This year Frank returned to the team for his senior campaign as he wanted to continue to improve as a runner and help the program grow as a whole.
“I felt like I had an obligation to the team. I was the only junior boy last season. Everyone was a senior, ”Frank says. “If I didn’t do it this year, there wouldn’t be any boys on the team this year. I’m just a guy, but it’s better than having no one.
Frank is the only member of the East Haven Men’s Cross Country Team this season. There are four athletes competing for the women’s team. With such a small roster, the Yellowjackets have no official captains, but Frank is still proud to lead the Easties in their warm-ups for practice and meet. Frank wants the young athletes on the program to have someone to look up to, just like he did last season.
“It means a lot. I’ve always wanted to be a leader,” Frank says. “We have kids who are in second grade, and this is their first year doing it. It’s good to have someone. to admire They are in the position I was in last year.
Ricky Narracci is in his first year as Head Coach of the East Haven Cross Country Program. It didn’t take long for Narracci to see the physical and mental strength that Frank brings to the trails daily.
“Frank is a kid who puts his head down and goes to work every day,” says Narracci. “He doesn’t look for excuses and wants to improve every day. He is hard.
Frank has competed for the East Haven wrestling team since his first season. He started with the sport in 7th grade at Joseph Melillo College. Throughout his time with the Yellowjackets, Frank rebounded in the weight classes competing between 113 and 130 pounds.
Frank has seen his junior wrestling season canceled due to COVID. As his senior season approaches, Frank has been named captain of the Yellowjackets.
“It was a good experience. I have no regrets about doing it,” Frank says of wrestling. “As a freshman nobody really saw me as a huge asset. I never would. I thought I was captain. But I was loyal to the team. I gave up a lot for the team. I ended up being captain.
While cross country running made Frank a better athlete, it also allowed him to make many connections that he would not have formed otherwise. Wrestling and cross country have two different communities, and Frank likes to serve as a link between them.
Now a two-sport varsity athlete, Frank hopes to end his time in East Haven with a successful senior year. Before graduation, Frank wants to continue to be a leader in helping the Yellowjackets’ cross country and wrestling programs lay the foundation for the future.
“I like the idea that maybe I’ll make history in East Haven. Maybe people will recognize me as one of the greatest athletes, ”says Frank. “But it’s not just about me. It is about setting an example for the next generation.