A-K Valley Senior Spotlight: Burrell’s Grace Nesko

Monday, September 25, 2023 | 10:29 AM

For a cross country runner such as Burrell’s Grace Nesko, a hip injury might be the toughest to endure.

The senior three-sport athlete — soccer, cross country and track and field — suffered the injury last year and took the necessary steps to get back to form for her senior year.

“It was a long process,” Nesko said. “Every week I would go to physical therapy for eight or nine months and then another two to three months to get back into the shape I was before the injury.

“It was difficult to watch others compete in a sport I love. I’m happy to be back. I’ve been running competitively at every invite, and my hip feels pretty good.”

Nesko’s coach, Faith Remich, saw her long road of recovery and applauded her for being diligent in her physical therapy.

“She took her time and was very patient, which I respected, because I know how she wanted to get back into workouts,” Remich said. “She’s a lot more responsible and conscious on keeping herself healthy.”

Nesko’s hard work and patience paid off as she has improved her times from her sophomore year, even with a year off.

She finished 19th with a time of 22 minutes, 20.4 seconds in the Class 2A/A race at the Marty Uher Invitational on Sept. 2 at Cal (Pa.). She finished 23rd in the Class 2A race at the Red, White and Blue Invitational on Sept. 9 at White Oak Park with a time of 20:41.

“She has unbelievable endurance, and after taking a year off, she hit the ground running almost immediately,” Remich said. “She ran 22 minutes in her first races back, and she’s already knocked off 2 seconds from her personal record of 20:34 since. She’s very fit right now.”

Nesko had two goals coming into the season. The first, and most important, was to remain healthy all the way through.

The second was to be successful, and that means getting back to states and trying to best her time from her sophomore year, which she believes she can do.

“My time in states my sophomore year was 21:50. Not as good as I wanted it to be,” Nesko said. “The course was a lot tougher than I expected. If I qualify this year, I can improve on that time.”

Nesko took some time out of her schedule for a Senior Spotlight Q-and-A session:

Was it frustrating to follow through on your physical therapy and take your time to get back?

Yes. I just wanted to get back and start running again, but they told me it was going to take a long time. I was impatient, but I was willing to put in the work to get better because I knew that if I rushed through it and reinjured myself, I would have to go through that experience again.

Have you noticed a change in your cross country times since the injury?

I have gone faster just because I’ve upped my milage, and I’ve started doing more workouts that were better for me, and it’s really great to see the hard work is paying off.

How did you get involved in cross country?

I decided to run cross country in my sophomore year. My dad and I have run together since I was in the sixth or seventh grade.

What’s the hardest course you’ve run?

Cal U. It’s always the first race of the year, and it has such a huge hill. The mental uphill battle when you’re actually going up that hill … it’s a very rewarding feeling once you finish that race.

Sophomore year you broke the school record in the mile with a 5:30. Your coach held the record at 5:34. Since then, Katie Bowers has beaten that. Are you setting a goal to regain the school’s record in the mile?

I am. I fully expected the record to be broken, because that’s what it’s there for. I was happy when Katie broke it at a 5:20. I want to get it back for my senior year. Not just for the record, but because I want to have a good time in the mile.

What’s the best time you’ve ever run in an event?

20:34 would be for a 5K. That was right before I injured my hip last year.

What motivates you to keep running?

I just want to be the best I can be and push myself. It’s a great feeling to put in all that work and cut my time down from 21:00 to 20:30. Just the feeling of getting a personal record.

What was the main reason you wanted to be a three-sport athlete?

I love all three sports, and I figured I’d give it a shot during my senior year. I thought I could handle it, and, so far, it’s going pretty well. All my coaches and teammates are really supportive.

Which is your favorite sport out of all three?

I would say track just because it’s so fast paced and has a supportive atmosphere. I just love the environment.

What events do you run in track and field? What position do you play in soccer?

I mainly focus on the mile and the 4-by-8 (relay). I also run the open 800, the 400, the 4-by-4 and the two mile. In soccer, I am the right outside midfielder and sometimes I go play middle midfield, if needed.

What would you say is your greatest strength?

That I put my best effort forward in all that I do because I know that if I fail, I’ll be disappointed in myself. At the end of the day, I want to be able to look in the mirror and know that I’m proud of what I accomplished.

Any hobbies?

I like to read. I love the true crime genre. It’s a field I want to get into. And I organized a 5K.

What was that 5k for?

To raise money for a mental health foundation I’m creating. I am hoping that it takes off and that in two years’ time, it will be successful across the Pittsburgh area and then I can expand it out.

What advice would you leave your teammates?

Don’t get frustrated if you’re not doing as well as you wish you were. Just put in the work. You’ll get to where you want to be eventually. It’s not going to happen overnight.

Looking into colleges?

Yeah. My top three colleges are the Air Force Academy, Shippensburg and University of Pittsburgh.

What are your plans for college?

I am looking into running in college and I plan to major in behavioral science and work for the FBI as a profiler.


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