2023 Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame Inductee: Fred Larson

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Fred Larson

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Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame

When one thinks of the all-time great high school coaches of cross-country and track and field in Chautauqua County, Fredonia Central’s Fred Larson is on that short list. The records he established as the coach of those two sports from 1966 to his retirement in 1995 may never be equaled. Larson’s stellar career resulted in his 2023 induction into the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame.

Fred Larson, affectionately known as “Ferd,” was born in Crosby, Pa., in 1940. As a school boy runner he was the Pennsylvania one-mile state champion in both 1957 and 1958. He also finished second in the state in the half-mile his senior year.

After his graduation from Smethport High in 1958, Larson attended Penn State University on an athletic scholarship graduating in 1962.

“Ferd” was hired as a physical education teacher and coach at Fredonia in 1966 and was employed there for 30 years.

Larson took over the Fredonia cross-country squad in ‘66. Over the ensuing 30 seasons, Larson led the Hillbillies to 25 CCIAC league championships, including an incredible run of 19 consecutive titles from 1967 to 1985.

His cross-country teams won 13 Section VI championships and created an amazing career mark of 568 wins against only 30 dual meet losses. During one stretch from 1971-1984, the Orange and Black runners went undefeated in 250 consecutive meets to set a New York State record.

Larson was the 1989 National High School Cross-Country Coach of the Year. Section VI chose the Hillbillies as its Cross-Country Team of the 1970s.

“Ferd” was equally successful as a track and field coach from 1966-1985 and then, after a short hiatus, from 1987-1995.

Working along side his brother, Jack, he led his teams to 16 CCIAC league titles and 7 Section VI championships. His career record was 139 wins and only 28 losses.

Larson was inducted into the Fredonia High School Hall of Fame in 2001. Inscribed on his plaque is one paragraph that reads “Coach Larson will always be known as a great cross-country coach. However, what made Coach Larson even more special was his ability to take a child that no one else saw as talented and convince those individuals that they could be great. Then “Ferd” would spend countless hours to ensure that they would be. Coach Larson gave to his athletes the inner self-worth, along with desire and dedication, to not only become wonderful athletes, but wonderful parents, employees and people.”

Retired since 1995, Larson has continued to make Fredonia his home.