DHS surprises longtime track and field coach by naming annual meet in his honor

Ulysses Frontha was asked to join Destrehan High School track and field coaches Tim Taffi and Lynette Matthews at midfield to help give out honors to several senior athletes.

What came next stunned him.

Frontha – and the crowd in attendance on Friday at Destrehan’s annual home track and field meet – learned that the event was officially being renamed the Ulysses Frontha Relays in his honor, a recognition by the school toward Frontha’s many years of dedication to the DHS track and field program and his many years working with other young athletes as well.

“I’m a little emotional,” said Frontha moments after the announcement, which was kept secret until the unveiling of a banner and T-shirts displaying the meet’s new name. “It’s good to know you’re appreciated … I had no idea, none at all. It’s humbling.

“I told coach, ‘Y’all set me up,’” Frontha added jokingly.

Frontha served in the military during the Vietnam War and was one of the first black students to integrate under Freedom of Choice at Destrehan High School.

After earning his degree in education, he began his track and field coaching career in Shreveport with Huntington High School. He started as an assistant, but in the middle of his first year there, the head coach departed.

“The principal came to me and said, ‘Well, you’re gonna be the head track and field coach now,’” Frontha recalled with a laugh.

Frontha was still learning the overall track and field game – he competed in all three jumping events in high school, but beyond that he needed guidance in terms of technique to pass on to his athletes.

“I read every book I could find – I was fresh out of college and I was lost,” Frontha said. “I talked to all the coaches I could find. Just like any coach – you steal from other coaches.”

He proved a quick study. Frontha guided Huntington to state championships in 1987 and 1988, and the program put together a near three-year unbeaten streak over that span. Frontha earned Coach of the Year accolades in each championship season. He also coached football and basketball as an assistant at the school.

In 1991, he returned back to St. Charles Parish – home for the Destrehan High alumnus.

“It was time to make the move,” Frontha said. “It was a chance to see my parents more and spend time with them.”

He returned to Destrehan High School as an educator and a coach with the school’s track and field, basketball and football programs, including serving as track and field head coach from 1992 to 2009. Frontha also founded the St. Charles Striders track and field team, affording more opportunities for local athletes to hone their skills and shine. From 2012-2015, Frontha guided the West St. John track and field program.

“It’s said about teachers where their students are their kids for the rest of their lives. I tell people, I only had one son, but I had a multitude of kids. And when you grow up, you’re still my kid. As long as it’s fun, I’m gonna keep doing it,” Frontha said.

Something about track and field Frontha’s always appreciated, he said, is there’s a little something for anyone and everyone.

“With all of the different events, you can’t say anyone’s too big or too small, we can find something for you to do,” Frontha said.

He’s helped many of his athletes accomplish major feats. Former Huntington runner Teresa Foster ran in the 1992 Olympic Trials. Destrehan alum Bryant Wesco is a Louisiana Tech Hall of Famer in track and field. Both were prep athletes under Frontha, and there are countless others who have gone on to shine.

Frontha is very proud of all of them.

“Anyone where I was able to have a positive impact on their life, I’d say that’s what I’m proudest of,” he said. “There are a lot of success stories and I’m proud to be a part of that. But seeing kids just go out there and compete – even if they don’t win, but they go out and they really compete.

“One of my guys who I coached and saw recently, he told me he always remembers something I told him – that you may not be the fastest out there, but just finish the race. Whatever you start, just finish the race.”


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