East Xtra: Yough athlete just stays on run
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So ... what does Dan Turnsek do in his spare time?
Turnsek, a junior at Yough High School, is the kicker on the Cougars football team, a striker for the soccer team and the No. 3 runner on the cross country team.
It's all for the love of the game.
"People find it hard to believe I can keep up with all the sports," Turnsek said. "But I like sports and I like all of them. I enjoy doing them so it doesn't really bother me."
Turnsek's original loves were soccer and football. For the past 12 years, he's participated in soccer. Turnsek has also been a football player for the past 10 years. This is the first year he has run cross country.
The expansion of Turnsek's sports to include cross country came from Yough coach Dana Newlin. Newlin is a teacher at Yough, and Turnsek often helps her with homeroom tasks. Turnsek's rich sports background convinced her to encourage him to join the cross country squad.
Turnsek had been running all summer to stay conditioned for soccer, so running cross country came naturally. At the Westmoreland County Championship meet two weeks ago, he achieved a time of 21:13. The course was on the rolling campus of Seton Hill University, and Turnsek was Yough's third runner.
Turnsek has been able to participate in Yough's soccer and cross country programs because the two sports' practice schedules do not overlap.
"I come to cross country [practice], and cross country ends right when soccer begins, so I go right from cross country to soccer," he said.
Yough's football practices run at the same time as cross country, however. So, Turnsek has made arrangements with his coaches to split time. One day per week, Newlin allows Turnsek to leave cross country practice in order to practice his kicking for the football team.
Sometimes, Turnsek's coaches have had to alter more than his schedules.
"At the beginning of this season I was at outside midfielder [for soccer]," Turnsek said. "Since I had a minor injury, [coach Tim Harrer] moved me to striker, so I didn't have to run as much."
Similar position adjustments have happened in Turnsek's football career.
"For eight years I was a quarterback," Turnsek said.
He explained that his early beginnings in midget football were at quarterback, even while playing youth soccer. But as Turnsek grew to play at the high school level, injuries guided his decision just to kick.
Turnsek said he injured the connected band of hip and leg tissue on his right side. A month ago, Turnsek's coaches cut back on the intensity of his practice.
Likewise, Turnsek has been a dependable place-kicker for the Cougars. Even in Yough's 40-28 loss to Valley on Oct. 5, Turnsek was 4 for 4 on extra-point kicks.
On the cross country team, Turnsek assists the captains in the development of workouts. Overall, he finds that participating in multiple sports aids in the building of skill sets for each.
"Cross country helps me with soccer and being in shape. And the soccer helps me with football because I have good accuracy," Turnsek said.
Turnsek doesn't take it easy in the offseason, mainly because he doesn't really have one.
In the winter, he plays basketball for Yough.
In the spring, Turnsek runs track. On the day of the 2012 WPIAL track individual qualifiers, Turnsek rolled his ankle during gym class. He still ran the 1,600-meter relay event and set a personal record with his split of 54 seconds. That same day, he qualified in the long jump event.
The hectic nature of Turnsek's multi-sport lifestyle can sometimes lead him to question his commitment. But it's the passion for the competition that drives Turnsek.
"On the night after a day when I have a cross country race and then a soccer game after, I'll say, 'Do I really want to be doing this?'" Turnsek said. "But I wake up the next morning and I do it all over again ... It goes back to just my love for these sports."