Yasko's running career at Baldwin made huge impact
Keystone Oaks cross country coach Kaitlin Yasko admits balancing classwork, coaching and an active running schedule is time consuming, but the Baldwin alum wouldn't have it any other way.
In her second year as the Golden Eagles' varsity head coach, Yasko loves fostering relationships with students outside of the classroom.
“It's very busy because you want to be the best teacher that you can possibly be, but that requires a lot of time outside of the classroom,” Yasko said. “The two are connected because I make such great relationships with kids in the classroom because a lot of them I have coached.
“They have a different level of respect for you. That's really what I love.”
Yasko ran cross country and track for Baldwin before competing collegiately at Duquesne University. It was at Duquesne that Yasko, a math and education major, started tutoring student-athletes in the athletic department.
“That was how I started working with students was tutoring,” she said.
Yasko is in her fifth year of teaching math at Keystone Oaks Middle School, where she also coaches middle school track.
She admits she still has a passion for running, which is the main reason she pursued a coaching career after graduating from college in 2008. Yasko volunteered at Mt. Lebanon and Baldwin before landing the position at Keystone Oaks in 2009.
“I did it because I still enjoy running,” she said. “I always knew I wanted to (coach), to hopefully give kids the same experience (I had).”
Her commitment to the sport started during her running days at Baldwin under the guidance of Pittsburgh Running Hall of Famer and Baldwin co-head cross country coach Rich Wright.
“My experience as an athlete at Baldwin was the best thing that ever happened to me,” Yasko said. “Running cross country and track made me who I am.”
Baldwin is a perennial power in track and cross country, hosting the preeminent high school track and field meet every year in the Baldwin Invitational.
Yasko thinks it's no surprise that Baldwin runners are leaving their footprints on the ever-growing Pittsburgh running community.
“(The Baldwin coaches) were just so wonderful and taught us so much I don't think it's a coincidence we all sort have gone out and been coaches ourselves,” Yasko said.
Yasko is one of four Baldwin High School grads who are coaching Western Pennsylvania runners.
The others are Jessie Von Bloch at Upper St. Clair's Fort Coach Middle School, Kelly Best at Peters Township High School, and Mallory Souleret at Carnegie Mellon University.
“We definitely still stay in touch. I'd love to say there's some competition, but there really isn't,” Yasko said. “We're all just so happy to see each other out there. We all definitely support each other.”
Best says the impact Yasko has on her runners is evident when she sees her interacting with them at local high school meets.
“I see her being very supportive with the kids,” said Best, who was Yasko's teammate for a year at Baldwin. “I know during practice she actually runs with them. I think she's doing a good job. She likes what she's doing, and the kids like her as a coach.”
Yasko still runs in several national and local events a year, including the Brentwood Firecracker 5K.
“I always run in the Brentwood Firecracker. You always see a lot of local (runners),” she said.
Yasko has no plans of slowing down any time soon.
In May, she will graduate from California (Pa.) University with a Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics (STEM) master's degree, before finishing the academic year at Keystone Oaks. She is getting married in June.
“I've been a busy girl,” Yasko said. “It'll be a very busy spring.”
Justin Criado is a freelance writer.