Running, picking, digging — Krall enjoys it all

| Sunday, Sept. 23, 2012

Oh, what to do on those boring bus rides to scholastic athletic events.

How about being treated to the popular tune “Dueling Banjos” from the 1972 movie “Deliverance.”

Or perhaps macabre tales about unusual discoveries in the graveyard?

Frazier cross-country coach Joe Turek doesn't have to worry about keeping his runners entertained on the bus — not with senior and lead runner Cory Krall occupying the backseat, banjo in hand.

“I always wanted to play the banjo and I finally bought one. Right now I'm teaching myself, but I plan to take lessons. Right now I play fun stuff, like “Dueling Banjos,” but I'm sure my song choices will grow once I have more experience. I started playing the banjo at the beginning of summer, so I'm still a newbie at it.”

And tales from the beyond?

Well, not quite.

Still, for the past two years Krall, a four-year letterman and team captain, has worked at Mt. Washington Cemetery in Perryopolis, initially keeping weeds in check, but also digging graves, by hand.

Helping the caretaker dig graves is “hard work, especially by hand,” said Krall, who, at 5-10, 115 pounds, has a near-typical cross country physique, discovered, “especially when you hit stone. We don't have a machine to do the job, so it's all by hand. It generally takes two days to complete the job.”

When Krall started digging, several of his cross-country teammates began calling him “Grave digger,” and the nickname stuck.

Krall, the Commodores number two runner as a junior last year, became the leader of the pack this season, thanks in part to his maturing into the team leader, Turek noted. “Cory took over the leadership role right away this season. He has been consistent in all our workouts and does not slack off in either speed or distance workouts. He either takes the lead or runs with the leaders. He is a strong runner with great endurance. He was valuable as our number two runner last year and gives us an edge at the top position. He gets better as the season goes on and peaks at the end of the year.”

With his home close to the Commodores' cross-country course at Sampey Park, Krall watched the runners run by when he was in middle school and became involved, along with several friends, who are still running together. As a junior, he finished among the top 15 runners in the Fayette County championships and finished in 28th place at the WPIALs, qualifying for the PIAA championship where, he admitted, he didn't have one of his better outings..

“It may not have been one of my better races, but it was a valuable experience for me for this season,” he said, with an eye on returning to the PIAA championship this year.

This year Krall ran an 18:18 race at an invitational meet held on the WPIAL course, and recorded a personal best time of 18-minutes flat in early September against Charleroi. His first sub-19-minute race occurred at the Penn State Fayette Eberly Campus course.

“Running a personal-best time and making states are amazing feelings,” he said, “but making it to WPIALs as a team, where we finished tenth last year is what we are focusing on right now.”

Although Krall focuses on lowering his times on the cross-country course, he maintains a complete focus on his academics. He makes all As in the classroom and is ranked second in his senior class. He is a member of the National Honor Society, and Foreign Language, Ecology, and Interact clubs and is an officer in each.

This spring he will run the mile- and 2-mile races for the Commodores track team and is a member of the 3200 meters relay team.

Which leaves one final question: Which is more difficult, running cross-country or digging graves?

Krall paused. “Digging graves is definitely hard work, and running cross-country is a different kind of hard work,” he said, chuckling, “but there is more pressure running cross-country, so I have to go with that.”

Les Harvath is a freelance writer.

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