Every now and then there comes an athlete who seems to just become a part of the program.
Fredonia’s Michaela Tramuta competes during the Section 6 Cross Country Championships at Long Point State Park, in Bemus Point, on Nov. 1.
For Fredonia cross country, senior Michaela Tramuta is one of those athletes. Tramuta just completed her cross country career by competing in her fifth-consecutive New York State Public High School Athletic Association championship race. That final race bookended a career which began approximately a decade ago.
"It feels like she has always been a part of the team," Fredonia coach Carol Zirkle said. "Her older sister ran for us first, so she was around the program at an early age. It just feels like Michaela has always been there."
Her career may have officially began as a seventh grader, but Tramuta has been around the program for much longer.
"My sister actually ran for six years as well," Tramuta said. "When she was a senior, I was in seventh grade and just starting the sport. That triggered my interest. I love to workout and keep in shape. I just went out in seventh grade to see how it would go."
Six years later, it's safe to say it has gone pretty well, as Tramuta qualified for the state championship race each of the last five seasons. In the 2013 championship, ran on Nov. 9, at Queensbury High School, Tramuta finished the 3.1-mile course in 20:13.2, a personal-best time for the state championship meet, beating her previous-best time of 20:50.8 set in 2012.
But as Tramuta's coaches are quick to point out, it's more than just the results that make her a staple of the program. It is her leadership that will be missed most.
"She is definitely going to be missed," Zirkle said. "I can't think of a kid who outworks Michaela. That's the reason she is such a success. She just works and works and works and she never gives up. To me, that's her legacy and no one on the team will ever question if she gave 100 percent in practice and every meet."
"She is easy to coach, but she is a coach as well," Fredonia assistant coach Mark Fitzgerald said. "She is also a great team leader, which is almost an even bigger part of her career. We're going to miss that as much as her actual running ability."
Replacing Tramuta won't be easy. When the cross country team begins practice next season, it will be the first year since 2005 that Tramuta will not be a part of the program.
"It will be hard to imagine what the team will be like (without Tramuta)," Zirkle said. "It's going to be very strange next year, not only for the coaches, but for the runners coming to practice and Michaela not being there. She has been such a leader for the younger runners. There is going to be a void, but the good thing about the cross country family is that somebody always steps up and fills the void."
"You can always find more runners," Fitzgerald added. "But to find someone who is both a strong runner and a great leader ... There are only a handful of those kids that you get over the years. That's why we've been so fortunate to have her."
Tramuta may be a top-level runner, but running is far from her only interest. She is also a member of both the indoor and outdoor track teams, as well as being involved in music groups, choir, theater and dance. While she's not busy with any of those activities, she finds time to play the saxophone and piano, both of which she has played "forever."
Her mother, Laurie Tramuta, is an adjunct professor in the music department at SUNY Fredonia where she teaches vocals as well as working as an elementary teacher. It was her mother that got her into music and theater at a young age.
When Tramuta leaves for college next fall, she will have to make a choice: theater or running.
So, which will she choose?
"A lot of people ask me that question," Tramuta said. "I would have to say theater, because it's what I want to do for the rest of my life and pursue a career in. It's my passion."
But if an athletic scholarship were to make it possible for her to go to school for free, Tramuta says she would try to find time for both.
"As much as she loves running, the music/theater is just as much of a passion," Zirkle said. "For her to be able to put the time and effort she does into running (as well as) her music and dance and to prepare for each musical is incredible. It takes a pretty special person to spread themselves in two different directions and do a phenomenal job at both."
Over the years Zirkle has seen a change in Tramuta, who came to the program at a very young age and has since developed into the team's leader due to her consistency and grittiness.
"She has a lot of mental toughness that has developed over the years," Zirkle said. "She just sets her mind to something and she does it. It doesn't matter if the weather is bad or she's not feeling well; she is going to be there and be consistent. As a younger runner she always worked hard, but I think it's the mental toughness that really developed in her.
"As a younger runner she wasn't necessarily the top runner or the top two," Zirkle continued. "Each year she just kept plugging away and working harder in the summer to be a leader and help that team get to states and continue that legacy that was started by previous teams."
It is said that a person's true character is revealed when no one is looking or when things aren't necessarily going well. Tramuta's work ethic has never been questioned and this year she proved that even when things weren't going as planned, she would continue to put her head down and do what she has always done.
"This year we realized early on, due to several different factors, that the team probably wasn't going to be able to contend for the Sectional title," Zirkle said. "But for her to persevere and maintain that high level of training and bring out the best in that team and still be able to achieve a personal goal of making it to states is pretty incredible. To me that's what I'll remember most. Not just one race. She took some knocks over the years and still reached for that goal and accomplished it."