During his first two years of high school, Torrington senior Jon Pirla was played soccer during the fall, but going into his junior year he decided that he was going to run cross country and this past season Pirla was the Red Raiders top runner, helping them finish third at the NVL Championships on his way to being named the Register Citizen’s boys cross country MVP.
“I really loved the game,” said Pirla, who also runs track for Torrington. “But I decided to go to cross country; I thought I might as well give it a shot.”
Though track and cross country are similar, the transition isn’t that easy, going from short distance running to long distance.
“I really didn’t know what to expect,” said Pirla. “I just took my knowledge from track.”
Torrington cross country coach Drake Waldron was impressed by Pirla’s early success.
“He was torn between soccer and cross country,” said Waldron. “He was immediately good. He had already run track and road races.”
During his sophomore year, Pirla worked on his longer races, making the transition easier.
“I buckled down in the mile run my sophomore year,” he said.
Before and during this season Pirla and some of teammates would do extra workouts.
“We would do other runs,” he said. “Coach would have us do and run and then after practice we would do another, gain mileage.”
It was that dedication that really stood out to Waldron.
“With a runner like him, it’s contagious,” he said.
As a junior Pirla finished in seventh place individually and this season Pirla finished fifth at the NVL Championships with a time of 16:33.95 and was named to the All-NVL team.
“It’s really encouraging,” said Pirla of the Red Raiders finish this season. “People used to say “Torrington who?” But we can run, we’re going to be contenders in any meet.”
For Pirla though his season ended at the NVL Championships, throughout the season he developed patella tendonitis, also known as jumpers’ knee, which caused him to end his cross country season early.
Other than being the top runner for the Red Raiders Pirla was also the leader of the team and that’s one of things Waldron is going to miss the most.
“I am going to miss his ability, his leadership was really good,” said Waldron. “He would bring everyones ability up.”