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Rick Davanzati, longtime Butler distance coach, retiring: ‘He’s the best coach I’ve ever worked with’

Rick Davanzati. 8/21/2022 Submitted Photo

BUTLER TWP — It took his first family to get Rick Davanzati to leave his second one.

Davanzati, 68, is retiring as the Golden Tornado cross country and distance running coach. His last act as a coach will be in Eugene, Ore., June 21-30, assisting Butler graduate and Notre Dame sophomore CJ Singleton at the U.S. Olympic Trials for the 3,000-meter steeplechase.

“His dad (Chris) ran on my first WPIAL cross country team,” Davanzati said. “He and CJ invited me to go out there. One of the things on my bucket list has always been going to the Olympic Trials.

“Being able to go out there and work with one of my former runners ... this is going to be a real thrill for me.”

And a fitting ending.

Related Article: CJ Singleton, Notre Dame steeplechase runner and Butler High grad, qualifies for Olympic Trials

Davanzati and his wife of 37 years, Mimi, are moving to Austin, Texas, over the summer to be closer to their only child, Mara.

“If we had other kids still in this area, I doubt we’d leave,” Davanzati said. “The only thing I would leave Butler and coaching for is family.”

Singleton and 2024 Butler graduate Drew Griffith described Davanzati as a coach who would be there for his athletes at any hour of day.

“He’s traveling 3,000 miles to help me at the Olympic Trials. That will be his last coaching experience, and I think it’s awesome, it’s special,” Singleton said. “I ask him to come out early in the morning and help train me in Butler, he does it. Ask him to come out in the evening, he’s there.

“I’m grateful to the guy for all he’s done for me. He’s the best coach I’ve ever worked with.”

Related Article: Griffith sets another state record Related Article: Griffith cracks 4-minute mile

Davanzati coached Griffith for the past four years, helping him break state and national records while developing him into one of the best high school distance runners in United States history.

“He’s the master mind behind everything I’ve done,” Griffith said. “Coach has so much knowledge of the sport. He’s able to work with every individual athlete differently, and he doesn’t overwork anybody.

“He gets you to work hard while grooming your love for the sport.”

Davanzati, an outstanding Butler distance runner himself during his high school years, began coaching as a volunteer assistant under Tom Hammonds in 1978. He coached junior high for a while, was a long-time assistant and has been head Golden Tornado cross country coach for the past 19 years.

“Our teams have always been family oriented,” Davanzati said. “Running has always been a passion of mine. Running has given me so much in my life. My parents always taught us to give back, and I feel like that’s what I’ve done.”

Long-time Butler track and field coach Mike Seybert will replace Davanzati as Butler cross country coach.

He lauded Davanzati for the effort he put in to working with all of his runners.

Related Article: Butler County boys track and field all-time Honor Roll: Final results from 2024 PIAA season Related Article: All-Time Girls Track and Field Honor Roll

“It’s always easy to coach the top kids,” Seybert said. “Rick took care of every single athlete. He knew how to prepare kids for the next level and how to get the most out of every runner on the team.”

Singleton referred to Davanzati as “one of the best high school distance coaches in the country.” Seybert agreed.

When asked if Davanzati was as good, if not better, than a lot of college coaches, Seybert replied: “Absolutely ... without a doubt.”

The proof is in the numbers.

In recent years alone, Davanzati has coached Griffith and Singleton (headed to and currently at Notre Dame), Noah Beveridge (Syracuse), Brett Brady (Tennessee) and Owen Dressler (headed to Robert Morris), among others. On the girls side, he coached Danica Snyder (Duquesne) and Maggie Welty (Penn State).

Davanzati takes pride in his 2009 girls cross country team that qualified for the PIAA meet. Snyder, Ashton Dolan, Tricia Brandt, Katresa Savisky and Christy Monnie comprised that group.

“There’s been many others,” Davanzati said. “I get close to the kids while coaching them. Once they graduate, they become friends of mine. They really are like a second family to me.

“I know it’s time, but I’ll miss this dearly.”

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