BRISTOL - Whether it be an entire nation, a city or in this case a family, sports have historically had a unique way of uplifting people while briefly putting aside any adversity or tragedy that those involved may be facing.
In the local community, 12-year-old Frankie Porrini, the son of long-time Bristol resident Jeannette Porrini, took up cross-country just over a year ago.
Timing is everything in cross country and the concept of time is something that Frankie has been all too familiar with during his young life, as he has seen his mom battle two separate illnesses over the past eight years - the most recent being stage four colon cancer.
Frankie’s journey in cross country has been an interesting one and his progress within the sport has shined a positive light.
Last year as a sixth grader, on the first day of cross country, Frankie learned an important lesson right away about the sport.
“I was just in middle school in the beginning of sixth grade and I was excited that we finally got to do sports in the school, and I chose cross country because people were saying it was fun, so I signed up for it not knowing what it was about,” Frankie Porrini said.
“Then I didn’t have any running shoes and I had gym that day, so on the first day of practice I had basketball shoes and not running shoes and my feet were hurting, so I was like, ‘Why’d I sign up for this sport?’”
As the season went on, he made sure that basketball shoes wouldn’t be part of his running routine and the proper attire resulted in improvement over the course of the season.
The State Open and the city championship were the two most important races of this past season for him with his West Bristol School team.
Up first was the State Open at Wickham Park in Manchester. Frankie finished in 165th place out of 440 runners with a time of 14:57.61.
But it wasn’t the end result of the race that mattered. Rather, it was what happened at the beginning and how Frankie responded.
Shortly into the race he fell down and any chance of him winning became extremely slim.
“He fell in the beginning of that race, but he got up and he kept going,” West Bristol cross country coach Kiara Bonilla said. “A lot of kids would have been done, but Frankie got up and worked his way back up to running with Chris Roy, one of our other top runners at West Bristol.”
Bonilla is a person that Frankie highly regards and she has noticed how big of an impact Jeannette’s will to fight her illnesses has had on Frankie.
“I think she’s a huge role model for him,” Bonilla said. “For him to see her going through what she’s going through and to still have such a light about her, I think he definitely is thinking about that when he may think that he might have to give up or may be struggling. I think he thinks, ‘You know what, my mom is one of the toughest people I know, so I’m going to push myself.””
With the State Open in the past, the city championship was Frankie’s chance to show how much he has improved.
Frankie finished in first place out of 82 runners with a time of 12:36.
It was a special moment that he and his mom shared together, as Jeannette looked on and cheered as he neared the finish line.
“It was cool that my mom was there,” Frankie said. It was really nice.”
“It was a great feeling to experience,” Jeannette Porrini said. “I’m hoping I get to experience many more.”
Jeannette has attended every race of Frankie’s, even if the weather isn’t the best for her to be outside in. Regardless of the weather, she’s out there for him, bundled up.
She’s become enamored with Frankie’s passion for the sport of cross country.
“I think it’s had a great deal of impact on her,” Jeannette’s close friend Tameka Hansley said of Frankie’s success. “Just seeing him have the passion for the sport has brought so much happiness for her as he’s found something he has passion for.”
His success in the sport has also inspired his cousin Mya Porrini, a fifth grader, to take up cross country when she enters the sixth grade.
“She came home and told her mom and dad that ‘I can’t wait until sixth grade so I can run cross country. because my cousin Frankie did such a great job,’” Jeannette said. “He makes it seem like it’s really easy and she was like, ‘I want to do it. He’s an encouragement to me.’”
His success in the sport has certainly uplifted Jeannette, and neither Frankie nor his mother have let the tough times impact their lives in a negative light.
Rather, they have used it as a reason to make every second together just as important as it is during a cross country race.
And what has been so inspirational to those around Jeannette is that she acts as if nothing has changed, while knowing that the reality is it has, as she continues to battle her disease.
“I try to live life and show both of my kids just to enjoy every little opportunity you have because life is unexpected,” Jeannette said. “Life is definitely such appreciation, but when it is time to leave, sometimes that is unexpected; and when that time comes, I want my kids to know that life does keep moving on, but you also have to embrace every moment you have together and enjoy it.”
Frankie’s success in the sport of cross country may have been unexpected as well, but the two, along with others close to them, have embraced it. Without question it has uplifted both Frankie and his mother.
Dan Orencole can be reached at or On Twitter: @OrencoleDan