Giambrone to continue cross country career at Gannon University

Warren’s Kayla Giambrone (middle) sits next to her mother, Debbie and father Mike, as she signs her National Letter of Intent to compete in cross country at Gannon University. Standing are WAHS coaches Kevin Dustin and Elizabeth Dustin.

Discipline, drive and determination.

These are just a few of the qualities needed to be a successful runner.

Warren Area High School senior Kayla Giambrone possesses all of these in abundance, and will take them with her when she goes to Gannon University next year to major in Healthcare Management and run on the cross country team.

It’s because of these attributes, and many more, that she is able to balance what is a tremendously busy schedule for a high school senior between school, running and her involvement with her church.

“I enjoy the discipline and hard work that running entails,” she said. “Cross country is a team sport, but you can excel as an individual as well. And it’s something you can do for your whole life.”

A 3-time state qualifier in cross country, she also played a major role in helping the Lady Dragons to a second-place finish in the District 10 team championships as a sophomore, which qualified them as a team for the state championships in Hershey.

She started running cross country in the summer between eighth and ninth grade, and quickly excelled at it.

She routinely found herself among the leaders in nearly every race, and capped off a brilliant season by qualifying for states her freshman year.

“It was really unexpected,” she said. “I didn’t really understand the importance of it until I actually qualified.”

And as for that first trip to Hershey?

“It was a bit intimidating at the start,” she said. “They narrow you right down to one area. And there were no other girls that had really been there before me that I had known, so it was all new.”

What started out as a new experience became the norm, though not without a lot of hard work.

And when she went back as a sophomore with the rest of the team, she knew what to expect, and was able to help out many of her teammates who were experiencing states for the first time.

“I knew what to expect that year,” she said. “It was nice to take a full team, because that hadn’t been done in a long time at Warren.”

That success in cross country has carried over to track as well.

She is a 4-year letterwinner in both, and excels in the 1600, 3200 and 4×800 relay in the spring.

Through it all, she has had the guidance of coaches Kevin and Elizabeth Dustin.

“I’ve become very close to them over the past few years,” Giambrone said. “They are super supportive of me. Even when I’m having a bad day, they continue to push me and they know I have more in the tank. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be as successful as I have been.”

As while she’s excelled as an athlete, she has even more so outside of athletics.

She is a member of the National Honor Society, and will go to Gannon with the intent of working towards a career as a hospital administrator.

“I’ve always had an interest in the healthcare field,” she said. “I enjoy helping other people and that’s something I can do on a daily basis.”

She interned at Warren General Hospital over the summer, and getting that hands on experience also helped push her towards healthcare, and said it was an experience that she ‘really enjoyed.’

On top of all that, she is very involved with her church, First United Methodist, where she is very active in her Youth Group, serving as a volunteer, as well as a Youth Leader for junior high kids.

“It’s something that’s very important to me,” she said. “I like interacting with the kids. Sometimes they just need someone to look up to. I just like being there for them, being someone to talk to. I’ve had other leadership roles in the church and it segued into this.”

Taking on roles of leadership, whether they are at church, in the classroom or in cross country and track, come naturally to Giambrone.

“I’m outgoing and definitely have strong opinions and am always honest,” she said. “I’m very detail-oriented and I just make sure I have a set time to get things done.”

Those qualities also endear her to all those who are lucky enough to call her a friend.

One of those friends, Michaela Lind, a former Warren teammate who is now at Edinboro and on the cross county team, helped push her toward competing in college as well.

“I met the coach at Gannon (John Carrig), and he’s a real nice guy,” she said. “After that I decided that I’d go run.”

What really pushed her to be a Golden Knight, however, was her course of study.

“Gannon was one of the few schools that had Healthcare Management as a major,” she said. “And I plan on getting a masters degree, too.”

And as for the campus?

“I like the small town feel within a city campus,” she said. “It’s small, but it’s still in the city, so it’s nice. And I wanted to be close to my family so they can still come watch me race.”

Speaking of family, she names them – mother Debbie, father Mike and brother Nick as some of her biggest influences, as well as her friends, church family and coaches.

“My parents have always been very supportive of my brother and I,” she said. “They never made us do a sport that we didn’t want to do. They were always going to 100 percent support us no matter what.”

The athletic genes run in the family, as Nick is a standout golfer at Clarion University.

She would also fill in for him when she was a sophomore reading the announcements at WAHS, something she has continued to do into her senior year.

Speaking of her senior year, she has plenty of goals for track.

“For the 1600, I want to get to the mid 5:20’s to low 5’s,” she said. “In the 3200, I want to get back under the 12-minute mark. Our goal and our coaches goal is we want to get a solid 4×800 team together and get to states.”

Her personal bests are 20:28 (5K), 5:30 (1600) and 11:59 (3200).

And as for her goals at Gannon?

“Be in the top five, break the 20-minute barrier and impact the team in a positive manner,” she said.

And anyone who knows her will tell you that she won’t have any problem achieving all of those.

That’s just the kind of person she is.

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