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Starting Early

Adjusting to the jump from middle school to high school is one of the first challenges in a young adult’s life. For Kenmore West freshman Madeline Frank, that jump this year is a little bit easier thanks to the power of sports.

After beginning her high school varsity athletic career at Kenmore West on the cross country team in seventh grade, then excelling on the girls basketball team last year, Madeline is already off and running as a high school student-athlete.

“One day, my grandpa just told me I was going to go to cross country practice,” Madeline said. She’s been running at the varsity level ever since, with her younger sister, Claire, now following in her footsteps.

This fall, Madeline’s success in cross country has been a key to her team’s 6-1 record. She has won three races individually, and while she is in her third season, she’s still not even halfway through her varsity eligibility.

“It gives me something to do. When I run, I forget about everything I have to do with school,” Madeline said. “… and it helps me get into shape for basketball,” she added.

Last winter, Madeline stepped into the rotation as an eighth grader for the Blue Devils girls basketball team, who finished 13-10 on the year. The 2019-20 season included a Sectional Final appearance in the Class A1 title game at Buffalo State

College, a 64-37 Hamburg victory on March 8. It was Kenmore West’s first trip to Buffalo State College since the site became the host of the finals. Madeline was one of four Blue Devils to score in the Sectional title game, with more than 10 family members in attendance.

Madeline’s athletic success comes after a childhood that included being hospitalized as a first grader with Celiac Disease — an immune reaction to consuming gluten.

“It was one of the hardest things to see,” said Madeline’s father, Fred Frank. “Within a matter of hours at the hospital, she was being wheeled off to surgery to have part of her intestine removed. … A lot of emotions came across, for sure, but she fought through it.”

Fred Frank recalls how he and his wife worked opposite shifts and traded off time between the hospital and work, while Madeline was hospitalized. Fred says Madeline’s two younger sisters “lived in the hospital the whole time.”

But none of that could stop Madeline from becoming a standout three-sport athlete — she also runs long distance in track — even before her freshman year.

Madeline’s family shares her love for sports, especially basketball. Her aunt, Karen Catalano, is the girls basketball head coach at Kenmore East, after previous stops at Lockport and Lancaster. Madeline’s uncle, Joe Catalano, is the girls

basketball head coach at Lockport, and her uncle Paul Catalano is an assistant coach on the Kenmore West coaching staff, as is her father, Fred. Madeline’s grandfather was also a coach across Western New York in softball, basketball and cross country.

“I had a lot of people who helped me get better, with a lot of perspectives,” Madeline said.

Madeline and her father recalled Sunday family dinners, where all the coaches in the family would sit around the table talking about basketball.

With a family background like that, it’s no surprise that Madeline began her varsity career at such a young age. Still, it was more than just family who supported her. Both Madeline and her father recognize how much her teammates have helped her grow into who she is today.

“It helped last year, just knowing my teammates. Just going to school and seeing them there helps me not be nervous,” Madeline said.

“She’s been lucky enough to have upper classmen who took her under their wing. Even with her being younger than everyone, they’ve really made her feel part of the team,” added Fred Frank.

After her successes in cross country, track and basketball so far, Madeline’s athletic career is already off to a great start. With so much support behind her, there’s a good chance it will just get better with age.

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