Austin Fasciana understands the highs and lows that come with running. The Avon High senior has experienced the extremes.
The highs? That’s an easy one.
A three-time state qualifier in cross country, Fasciana took Division I All-Ohio honors last year by finishing in the top 25 at the state meet. His 17th-place finish in 15:46.12 was the third-fastest 5K mark ever for a Lorain County boy at state.
Firelands’ Mike Beetler owns the county’s two fastest 5K marks at state, clocking 15:39 when he finished second in the 1983 Class AA individual race and 15:42 when he took third at the 1982 Class AA team race.
Fasciana ran raggedly in the 1,600 meters at the Avon Lake Invitational on April 6, finishing seventh in 4:45.47. He went to the doctor the following week and was diagnosed with mono.
It ruined his track season.
Fasciana was forced to shut down his training for four-plus weeks. He came back in time to run a 2:06 split in the 3,200-meter relay at districts to finish the season.
“Being out sick taught me about patience,” Fasciana said. “I really couldn’t do a whole lot. I’m not sure how I came down with it, but the doctor said almost everyone gets it at some point.
“Some get it without knowing that they have it. It was a huge bummer.
“I was really hoping to have a good year in track, but there are obstacles in life. I know that there will be a lot more obstacles for me, not only in sports but in the real world. I just took it as a learning experience.”
The bar is set high for Fasciana. Only a select few Lorain County runners on the boys side have qualified to state four times in cross country. Fasciana’s a good bet to be the next.
He was 50th in 16:22.50 at the 2011 state meet, after finishing 17th as a freshman in 16:18.9, the season Avon was in Division II.
Elyria Catholic’s Marty Coolidge (2007-10) and Amherst’s Jeff Wilhelm (1973-77) head the list. Coolidge qualified all four times individually, although his team also qualified the last three times, as well. Although state-qualifying criteria changed in 1985, Wilhelm would have qualified individually four times even though the Amherst team made it anyway.
Amherst’s Dale Mitiska (1970-73) also made it four times, although it’s believed not all four times as an individual.
Fasciana raced his first event of the preseason Aug. 14 at the Classic at Mastick 5K in the Rocky River Reservation of the Cleveland Metroparks. He finished 15th overall out of 300 runners in 17:35.9.
It was Fasciana’s first 5K race since Nov. 3, 2012, at the Division I state meet.
“I felt good,” Fasciana said after the Mastick race. “I did what I had to do. I just thank God to be able to finish the race and to be up there with all those guys. I felt very strong.
“I took a couple of weeks off after track then started to build myself back up with very low mileage. It’s not how you start the season, it’s how you finish.”
Fasciana’s state-meet time last year broke the school record of 15:54.7 set by Tyler Kvach. It was the first Division I top-20 finish by a Lorain County boy since Amherst’s Zak Wilburn finished 15th in 2004.
Avon junior Sean Kane races and trains with Fasciana. He understands what his teammate has been through and what he’s all about.
“Austin brings everything we need as a team,” Kane said. “He gets us all ready for the race. He gets us up there. He’s a nice guy to look up to. He’s a great guy to have running with you every day. When you’re not always having the best day he keeps you motivated, keeps you in a good mood, keeps you humble on your good days. It’s nice always having him there.
“We’re here to lead by example. Neither of us is too vocal. We don’t try to command. We kind of just do our thing. The program is working. We just have to follow with what the coaches are telling us and we’re going to do well.”
Last season ended on a rough note as the Eagles came up just short of the fourth and final state-qualifying berth at the Tiffin regional.
Avon, ranked 19th, scored 159 points, four points behind Medina (155).
Blake Pecoraro and Matt Beltz — two of the Eagles’ top seven runners — graduated. Pecoraro was an individual state qualifier and the team’s No. 2 runner. Beltz was the No. 7 man.
“We have another good team,” said Fasciana, who stands 5-foot-9 and weighs 145 pounds. “The goal is repeating as (West Shore Conference) champs and make the top four at regionals. The biggest thing is patience and how we apply ourselves week-by-week so that we’re ready for the end of the season.”