A North Central Track and Field Legend Retires
The story of any North Central men’s track and field season is usually first and foremost the quest for a conference championship and to qualify as many athletes for nationals as possible. But there was a different headline this time, as Frank Gramarossso announced his retirement ahead of the outdoor season after 39 years.
“The emotional part was in February and March when I started really considering it,” Gramarosso, who recently turned 69, said. “I know what it takes to do the job that Al and I have been doing for the 39 years I’ve been with him and I’m just reaching a point where it’s not fair to the institution or the coaching staff that I’m not the Frank Gramarosso I used to be so that’s the big decision. And it’s emotional, I’m gonna really miss the guys. All the retired coaches I’ve talked to have told me ‘you’ll know when it’s time’.”
Conference Dominance As Usual
As a remarkable tenure came to an end, in competition the Cardinals continued their textbook consistency winning the CCIW Outdoor Championship for the fourth straight year. They notched two individual event championships, with Jamauri Spivery winning the 100 meter dash and the 4×100 meter relay team of Spivery, Kevin Dixon, Terrence Hill and Jahron Williams also taking home top prize.
Additionally, there were second place finished for Erik Musgrave in the 400 meter hurdles, Juan Castro in the 800 meter dash, Connor Riss in the 1500 and Drew Guimond in the 10,000 meters. Also making the podium in third place were Brian Armstrong in decathlon, Gavin Carr in pole vault, Yasmani Rojas in javelin, Riley Hughes in shot put and Nick Janca-Schmitt in high jump.
“We get more guys that get to compete in that day,” said Musgrave of the conference meet. “Nationals is great but only a few guys get to qualify each year so really that true team atmosphere is done in that conference meet. So that’s our number one goal. Obviously, guys have other ambitions and goals as well but really that conference championship means a lot. And this past week guys were popping up and we built off that energy and that’s the best part about it.”
“Indoor is supposed to build into the outdoor season so it feels pretty good to be able to use that momentum I had coming out of indoor nationals and transferring it to the outdoor season where I can keep going and keep building as a sprinter,” said Spivery of his spring performances.
“The improvement that I had this year… I focused more on progression,” said Castro. “I know I’ve been better in every single event, and that’s a good feeling because I know the program has actually benefited me in a huge way.”
Focus on Nationals
The attention then immediately turned to who would qualify for nationals, and when the dust settled it was Musgrave in the 400 meter hurdles and Spivery in the 100 meter dash who would represent the Cardinals.
“It means everything,” Spivery said of representing North Central at the NCAA meet. “Working so hard for something and seeing it come to fruition is such a beautiful thing, because everyone wants to work towards something and having a goal week-by-week that I can hit and constantly keep going is the main thing.”
“I came in when North Central was going for national championships every year so I came into a really strong senior class and everything,” said Musgrave. “For those guys it seemed like it was almost automatic to qualify because all these guys around me were national champions, All Americans. And it’s not that easy. It takes a lot of work. So it definitely feels like it was worth it coming back for that second degree, that masters degree, and everything and to see all that effort and work paying off to qualify.”
Musgrave finished 13th in the preliminary rounds, but not only did Spivery qualify for the 100 meter final, he finished fourth to become an All American and set a new North Central men’s outdoor record in the process.
A New Era Ahead
Spivery’s performance sent the men’s track and field team’s 2021/22 school year and Gramarosso’s career out on a high, and there’s plenty to celebrate with all that the legendary coach gave to the program now that his time at the helm has come to an end.
“It’ll always be a little different but we have a great coaching staff, volunteers, assistants who are still gonna be a part of the program,” said Musgrave. “So depending on what your event is some things may be more different than others, but it’s still gonna be North Central, Grammy’s still gonna be around as much as he can I’m sure. They built the program in the past as you’ve seen, but I think North Central’s still gonna be North Central.”
“Just being a family,” Spivery said of Gramarosso’s impact on the team. “It’s the main thing that we teach, being a family. All of us coming together and using our individual performances to propel the team to win championships. That’s a big thing and I’m a big family guy, so their impact on me was being able to just trust my teammates and run as a family.”
“Everyone’s part matters,” said Castro. “Whatever that you’re doing, remember you’re going to have to contribute that to the team and you might have to sacrifice some things or might have to do a bit more extra work to make sure that you feel like you’re doing enough to not let your team down.”
“Day-by-day working with them and relationships you build with those athletes. That’s what I’m gonna miss the most, that’s where you get choked up,” Gramarosso said. “Maybe I’ll come back and help in some other way, I don’t know, right now I’m waiting for June 30th to walk away a little bit and we’ll see what happens.”