BOYS TRACK PREVIEW: Thorpe hopes to repeat in Schuylkill League
The Jim Thorpe boys are the defending Schuylkill League champions and are hoping to repeat again this season.
Palmerton and Northwestern should also have strong teams and will look to challenge in a very competitive Colonial League.
Those are just some of the storylines to this year’s boys track and field season.
… In like a lion, out like a lamb? Area teams sure hope so. “Weather has definitely been a challenge to date with school dismissals and closures,” said Jim Thorpe head coach Frank Miller, who enters his 17th season with the Olympians. “As of March 14, we have had the opportunity to train as a team four times only to date so that preparation is falling to the student athletes to be able to do what they can do at home safely to best prepare for the spring season which we kick off on Friday, March 24.”
SHOES TO FILL
… The defending 2022 Schuylkill League champions are in search of a few replacements. The talent missing is from within the field events, as David Richards (Times News/LVHN Male Track and Field Athlete of the Year; high jump, hurdles) and Aiden Clements (pole vault) have graduated from Jim Thorpe.
RUN IT BACK
… After finishing 4-2 overall and hoisting the Schuylkill League meet championship trophy, the Olympians will look to defend last year’s title. Miller welcomes back a number of individuals who helped make the title season possible, with Ryan Bailor (senior, distance), Ridge Snyder (senior, distance), Zeeshan Issifu (senior, sprints), Paul Rutledge (senior, throws), Brett Balliet (senior, throws), Rowan Melber (senior, throws), David Fiorito (senior, sprints/jumps), Andrew Warner (senior, sprints/jumps), William Newton (senior, throws/jumps), Jordan Remmell (senior, distance), Salvatore Capria (junior, sprints), Andrew Coolbaugh (junior, sprints) and Justin Yescavage (sophomore, hurdles/sprints) returning.
LOOKING TO CHIP IN
… Miller will also be counting on Peter Almeida (junior, throws), Bryson Heydt (senior, throws), Kolby Cavanaugh (sophomore, sprints/jumps), Bowden Chicarelli (sophomore, distance), Aaron Curran (sophomore, sprints), Austin Fronheiser (junior, throws), Ehren Hassler (sophomore, mid distance, pole vault), Joshua Louck (freshman, sprints/jumps), Dawson Meckes (senior, mid-distance), James O’Neil (sophomore, pole vault), Jack Sanwirja (sophomore, pole vault), Chase Whaley (junior, sprints), Henry Snyder (sophomore, distance), Gabe Wirth (freshman, distance), Gavin Strohl (freshman, throws) and Trelawn Richards (freshman, throws).
SETTING THE BAR HIGH
… “The goal for the season is to compete for a repeat of the Schuylkill League championship with the amount of returners back from last year’s team coupled with the development of the newcomers,” stressed Miller. “Replacing David Richards and Aiden Clements (both Schuylkill League Champions) in the vertical jumps will be critical in the goal to defend our league championship. In being back down at 2A, we feel that several of our student-athletes should have an opportunity to compete at the District 11 Championships for a chance to compete at the State meet; however, those are the big picture goals and all the coaches and kids are focused on (once we get into a consistent training mode) the daily processes that will allow them the chance to achieve their end of season goals.”
BUILDING THE FOUNDATION
... Head coach Erica Pagotto enters her third year at the helm of the Indians’ program. She’ll be assisted by Jim Blakeslee, Darren Frehulfer, Vanessa Rimbey, and Gwen Remaley.
THROWS AND SPRINTS
... Pagotto noted the strength of this year’s team will be in its throws and sprints. Joe Roth was the Schuylkill League champion in the javelin. Ethan Buchert was fourth in the 200, and Wyatt Sherer also recorded a fourth in the javelin at the league meet. “We’re looking to see what Joe Roth and Wyatt Sherer bring to the javelin again this year,” she said. “Ethan Buchert is our leader in the sprints.”
TIME TO IMPROVISE
... With relatively low numbers in the 30s, Pagotto knows she has to get the most from her lineup. “Our numbers are low on the boys side,” she said. “We are trying to spread out our talent to cover all the events. We have boys who are willing to try new events, and we appreciate their eagerness to help.”
NEW TO THE MIX
... Pagotto will rely on a cast of freshmen who are expected to be steady contributors throughout the season. Phillip Ebbert (jumps), Talin Fairchild (throws) Cameron Fisher (pole vault/hurdles), Bodie Hawk (throwing), Ryan Kusse (sprints), Elijah Pagotto (distance), and Mason Seidler (jumping) all will be counted on to play major roles.
RUN SILENT, RUN DEEP
... The third-year head coach has been impressed with the early showings of his distance runners. Elijah Pagotto, junior Owen Serfass, sophomore Kyle Kuznicki, and junior Bradley Yenser have been posting strong times in logging their miles. Kosnicki didn’t come out last year after he caught the program’s eye in eighth grade, and Pagotto - the coach’s son - set a record in middle school last year. “They’re doing a very good job,” said the head coach. “It will be a matter if they can keep a good pace throughout the season.”
SETTING THE TONE
... Marian got to work in the offseason in preparation for this spring, and head coach Justin Huegel believes those efforts will pay dividends. “We had another solid off season with our indoor program with our boys team adding some new blood and having the opportunity for our athletes to build the foundation for this coming year,” said Huegel “With many of our participants being returnees, they were able to set the tone for how we are going to work this spring season.”
... The Colts have had some stellar athletes come through their program in recent years, a trend Huegel expects to continue this season. “This year is going to be a great year for our boy’s program. With many familiar faces now onto the next level, this is going to be an opportunity for our team to identify the next batch of leaders and standouts. With athletes like Michael Fellin and Jake Fenstermaker who made their name in the program at the league, district, and state levels moving on, it is an amazing opportunity for our team. Juniors like Alex Porambo and cross country state qualifier Albin Petschauer have stepped up to lead by example. With other key returnees from last year, we also have the opportunity to put athletes in a position to push towards the state meet. Our goals from each year at the division, league, district, and state level don’t change from year to year, but this batch of boys with a mix of newcomers and experience has the opportunity to make a mark.”
... The losses of former state runner-up Michael Fellin, state qualifier Jake Fenstermaker, Noah Frask, Logan Fritz, Robert Jones, Alex Kokosky, Stephen Kostecky, Brendan Lonergan, Lliam Sanphy and Ethan Smith will certainly create some holes – and opportunities – on the Marian roster.
... Look for Josian Hernandez (junior, sprints) Albin Petschauer (sophomore, distance), Alex Porambo (sophomore, mid-distance/distance), Jose Ramirez (junior, jumps), James Rodino (junior, throws), Jesse Rodino (junior, sprints/throws), Nathaniel Rosario (junior, hurdles), Michael Silliman (sophomore, jumps/sprints) and Dylan Rodino (sophomore, throws) to be among the squad’s key contributors this season.
... Huegel also expects Stephen Bretzik (junior, throws), Jaydin Fermin (junior, sprints), Ryan Gianelli (junior, throws), Caden Kash (junior, mid-distance), Anthony Macario-Chiaklis (junior, mid-distance), Anthony Thomas (junior, mid-distance) and Bryaden Segilia (sophomore, sprints/jumps) to take on greater roles this season.
... Head coach Mike Lehtonen begins his 16th year at the helm of the program. He will be assisted by Scott Gerould, Derek Long, Jake Waylen, Dylan Hofmann, Drake Pristash, Jill Olewine, and Raj Gupta.
EXPERIENCE WILL COUNT
... Lehtonen realizes his team may take some time to mature to discover their roles. “The boys have more question marks than the girls due to youth and inexperience. As a young team, they will look forward to the first meet to see how they stack up against the competition. We will probably have a number of boys participating in a number of events. We’ll see how it all breaks down.”
... Seniors Alexander Jiminez Wittong (sprints, relays) and Bailey Smith (multiple events) are two of the more adaptable performers on the roster. Witting is the lone returnee of the PIAA State qualifying 400 relay team. “AJ looks to show off his speed again,” said Lehtonen. “He can do a lot of things for us, and we’ll reach out to him. Smith could be a factor in a lot of areas. He showed some very good promise in the javelin along with some speed on the track. He is a versatile athlete who is even exploring hurdles.”
BEST OF THE REST
... Lehtonen also will look to Jason Hunsicker (800, 1,600), Matt McCarthy (hurdles), Grady Newhard (sprints), Nick Frame (throws), Sam Frame (throws), and Izaiah Ramos (hurdles) to regularly generate some points.
TAKING THE LEAD
... Smith, who will be involved with hurdles, jumps, throws, and the javelin, sees himself in a leadership role. “I love being able to help my team wherever they need it,” he said. “I feel like I’m one of the leaders this year, helping my teammates to get better and to give tips. I have a lot to improve on this season, mainly getting close to the javelin record and going to states.”
LONG DISTANCE CALL
... The Tigers will look to replace both Cole and Joe Chokoskie along with Nate Vincent. All three were part of a successful 3200 relay team, and the brothers Chokoskie were consistent in the 1600 and 3200 with Vincent steady in the middle distances.
SANTANA WARMING UP
... Senior Matt Santana won a bronze medal in the 3,200 at districts, and he was part of the Tigers’ 3200-meter relay team that won gold at districts and went on to states. Santana and fellow senior Sam Bower are the two returnees for the relay team. “Matt should have a good year for us,” said head coach Chuck Groller. “He has been running hard and is looking forward to the challenge of the season.”
... Like the girls’ team, Groller has high aspirations for his sophomore class. Gavin Nelson (jumps), Ben Bachman (sprints), Xander Giandomenico (distance), Seth Kern (sprints), Landen Mason (sprints), Brendan Miller (hurdles/throws) and Del Tyler (hurdles/jumps) should have an impact.
FOLLOW THE LEADER
... With basically a young team, Groller will rely on seniors Evan Anderson (sprints), Bower (distance/jumps), Cayden Kuhns (pole vault/hurdles), Colin Myers (throws), Zack Santana (distance), and Ben Fornwalt (sprints/jumps) to set the pace. Juniors Kit Kahm (jumps), Asa Fogel (sprints/jumps), Sean Kershner (distance), and Matt Cabansag (throws) also provide some depth.
NOT SO FAST
... With a solid group back, Groller is still cautiously optimistic about the season. “We are young and very athletic,” he said. “But we will be up for any challenge that comes our way.”
ON THE RUN
... One of the strengths of the boys team will be their distance runners. Seniors Owen Hibell, Dylan Hartranft, Jordan Mann,and Aaron Simpson are back to lead the pack. “They are a strong group of distance runners,” said head coach Mike Gombert. “They know what they have to do, and they should have success this season.”
BACK TO THE SHIP
... Senior Justin Herrmann was a participant at the state meet in the 110 hurdles last season. He won the district meet after being a sixth seed. Gombert believes he can find his way back. “He has his sight set on a return trip,” said the coach. “He works hard, and he looks good. He definitely has a good chance.”
SPREAD THE WEALTH
... Gombert will be looking to his senior class to help lay the foundation for the season. Seniors Devin White, Reilly Burke, and Alec McCarty will be competing in a number of events, and they will lead the pack. “We will look to those guys to help us in a number of ways,” said Gombert. “We also have a talented group of juniors who will provide significant points in a variety of events.”
LOOK FOR LEADERSHIP
... The boys’ unit posted a 9-2 record last season, and Gombert is looking forward to a similar path this spring. Freshmen Connor Hibell (distance) and Logan Anthony (throws) and junior Ty Sander (sprints) have been impressive as new contributors. “The seniors have experienced much team success in their high school careers, and now it will be their turn to lead the team to continue the trend. The Colonial League will be once again strong, so consistency from all the upperclassmen and continued improvement from the underclassmen will determine the team’s success.”
... Panther Valley brings back the likes of seniors Michael Pascoe, Austin Hadley, Bryan Wilde, Trey McAndrew and Kyle Lin, along with junior Brad Lee Jones, who give the program plenty of talent, versatility and depth.
THROWING THEIR WEIGHT AROUND
... Pascoe is a multi-sport athlete who had an outstanding initial track and field season last year. The school’s all-time leading rusher in football, three-year starter on the basketball team, and Division 2 recruit in baseball (Chestnut Hill), Pascoe bolstered that impressive sports resume with a Schuylkill League Championship in the discus last year, and multiple postseason medals in the shot put. He was able to be the top point scorer on the team last year while balancing his baseball schedule. Hadley is another excellent all-around athlete who tried track for the first time last year and had a great year. Heading to Franklin and Marshall for football, Hadley is also a standout in track. He was the second leading scorer for the Panthers last season and became one of the best throwers in the league and district. Jones followed up a district qualifying freshman season with a solid sophomore season where he emerged as one of the top javelin throwers in the area. He finished sixth in the event at districts and (IS) looking to compete for League and district gold this year in his junior season.
... Wilde was triple jumping in the coveted 40-foot range before suffering a season ending hamstring injury a year ago. He should compete for medals in both the League and District meets, and be one of the team’s top point scorers as he also contributes in the hurdles and relays. McAndrew is a key player on the Panther’s district championship baseball team and balances his time running distance for the thinclads. He has qualified for the League and district meets as a sophomore and junior and is looking to compete in those meets for medals this year as a senior. Lin became a hurdler last year as a junior and ended up earning trips to the League and district meets in both the 110 and 300 hurdle events. Head coach Paul McArdle is hoping he has continued success in those events, and can also contribute in the 1600 and 3200 relays.
... Juniors Andrew Hazard and Thomas Buyce will also help offset the losses of Matt Prudente (middle distance) and Richard Zabroski. McArdle feels he has someone who could be a huge surprise on the area track scene this year in Hazard. “Andrew has excellent running form, is well conditioned already, and has long strides that should help him in the longer sprints like the 200 and 400,” said the coach. “He also has a lot of potential in all three jumping events, too.” Buyce had a breakout season in basketball this winter, and is looking to roll that momentum into some recognition in his first season of track and field. McArdle is impressed by his attitude and work ethic early in the season and feels he can be very good in the sprints, jumps, and relays for the Panthers. Juniors Hayden Goida and Chase Weaver, along with sophomore Brennan Kunkle and freshman Brody Breiner will contribute in sprinting and jumping events. All are primarily baseball players, but have the chance to shine for McArdle as well. Frank Shubeck (sophomore, sprints/jumps), Thomas Kokinda (senior, jumps), Eli Maynard (junior, throws/sprints) and Ethan Gardiner (senior, distance/hurdles) could also make an impact this season,
... McArdle has put an emphasis on increasing the program’s numbers, and it’s worked, They went from six returning boys last year to 36 on the roster right now. McArdle credits the other sports coaches at PV for that. “Mark Lavine (football), Pat Crampsie (basketball), Rich Evanko (baseball) and I are all close friends, and they have done a great job encouraging our kids to be multi-sport athletes. We have some great athletes at PV, and sharing them has been a win-win; for us, and for the athletes.” McArdle said. “Last year we didn’t win a team meet. This year I think we should be more competitive as a team, and I also think we will see multiple guys on the medals podiums in Leagues and Districts and hopefully send a few to Shippensburg.”
... Pleasant Valley has a new coach for the boys and girls program. Soccer coach Isaac Blagogee took on the task to coach track to keep the program going. “This season, my first goal was for the school just to have the track team,” Blagogee said. “They didn’t have a coach and I told them I was really busy and it was going to be rough for me to do it. I told them I would give them my best. Before getting the job, I did as much research I could possibly get done for them to achieve the best.”
RUN, RUN, RUN
... Pleasant Valley has Senior Frankie Morales and Junior Edward Lauritsen for the running events. Lauritsen is coming off his wrestling season. Blagogee will turn to the Morales-Lauritsen duo to get the job done.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT
... Blagogee’s first year as the Pleasant Valley track coach comes with working on some issues for the program. “I’m focusing on the development of all the athletes,” Blagogee said. “My main focus right now is get them as strong and fast as possible,” Blagogee said.” We struggled with the baton release, so that’s something we’ll be working on. Getting off the blocks a little bit is something we’ve been also focusing on.”
... Pleasant Valley has four key throwers to keep an eye on throughout the season. Seniors Joseph Kowalczyk and William Bruckman lead the way, followed by junior Julian Canela and freshman Nicholas Bruckman.
WHERE IT ALL STARTED
... Blagogee participated in track during high school as a pole-vaulter. Blagogee has his other coaches work with his runners. I was not a big fan of running,” Blagogee said. “Track running is different from soccer running, I tell the kids. In soccer, you have to work on controlling your pace, short-stop. With track, you’re on the go right away. The distance runner controls the pace. These boys amaze me with the effort, and everything they’re doing is very well.”
… Head coach Jim McCabe has instilled confidence in his squad, and built a trust that should lead to progress and success. “If the student-athletes buy in and believe in our process, the only thing I can promise is that they will be better at the end of the season than at the beginning of the season,” said McCabe.
BACK ON THE ROSTER
… McCabe welcomes back plenty of seasoned student-athletes this season. Aaron Rolko (sprints, jumps), Adam Schock (long distance), Alec Hill (pole vault), Alec Nattress (hurdles), Anthony Marchetti (long distance), Brody Boyce (long distance), Ethan DiBonifazio (sprints), Jack Tharp (throws), Jacob Hehn (mid/long distance), Jathan Krall (mid/long distance), Jesse Gormley (mid/long distance), Jonathan Ulicny (throws/jumps), Levi Kunkel (mid/long distance), Marcus Roseland (pole vault), Martin Griffin (jumps), Matthew Welsh (throws), Nicholas Barron (sprints/jumps), Peter McGinley (jumps), Ryan Lusch (jumps), Sean Wall (sprints), Stephen Kieffer (sprints/mid distance), Tegan Devlin (pole vault), Cameron Lewis (sprints), Adam Bachert (sprints) and Timothy Berg, pole vault) will all be counted on to contribute this season.
… Newcomers Daltyn Sadusky (sprints), Mason MacMillian (throws), Ryan Snyder (throws), Scott Case (sprint/jumps), Thomas Rivera (throws), William Behun (throws), Allen Tracy (mid distance) and Jonathan Knepper (sprints) will also be vital to the team’s success this season.
STRENGTH ON THE HIL
L … With a number of key returnees and newcomers on the roster, McCabe was able to pinpoint a strength that will guide the Blue Raiders forward. “Our strength for the boys is in our mid/long distance events,” McCabe said. “We have a large group of kids that will fight for these positions with success.”
SMALL BUT MIGHTY
... The Wreckers began their offseason training about three weeks ahead of the new campaign. Despite challenges that exist at a smaller school, head coach Ryan Kately has proven the program can be successful, something he hopes to continue once again this year. “Numbers are very high for the boys team and very low for the girls team. However, overall this is the most athletes we’ve had combined boys and girls with about 20. We also have the most middle schoolers come out than we’ve had too. Being a couple of years removed from COVID, I think the numbers for all track programs are starting to build back up. Off-season training has been going well; obviously, we don’t have a track and have limited resources, so we have to get creative with sprinters and distance running in a parking lot, and throwers have been in the weight room and gym. We only have myself, and assistant coach Paul DiGennaro coaching as well so we see everything going on at practice.”
GOING THE DISTANCE
... Kately - who also coaches the school’s cross country team - will lead on the squad’s distance prowess to produce points this spring. “On the boys side, I believe our strength will be in the distance events having all the guys from the Schuylkill League Division Championship team with seniors Jacob Parker and Michael Berger having the most experience in big-time track races and both own school records, Parker in the 3200 and 3200 relay, and Berger in the 3200 relay,” said Kately.
... In addition to the strength on the distance side, Kately also has talented returnees in several other areas. “We return our top sprinter/jumper senior Ian McLaurin, who is tied for the school record in the 100 and owns the school record for the long jump,” said Kately. “We return most of our throwers from last year in seniors Wyatt Higgins, Jack Nemshick, and Jayden Eubanks.”
... Kately also likes several newcomers to contribute and be consistent point scorers this season. “Two freshmen to keep an eye on that have been impressive are going to be thrower Giovonni Petrole and Jumper Corbin Wagner,” said Kately. “Another athlete who has been impressive is sophomore Sebastian Williams, who has taken on hurdling and will be looking to impress in the 300 hurdles. Sophomore Vincent Paisley is also a newcomer to keep an eye on in multiple events as well. This will be the first year I believe we will have multiple athletes in every event except pole vault for the boys.”
... “We’re very excited about the season, and all of the athletes are itching for warm weather to get outside and are ready to compete,” said Kately. “We hope to see a lot of school records fall, and build on the last two seasons where we have a couple of wins on the boys side which is hard to do competing against much bigger schools. The goal is to get as many athletes to leagues, districts, and states as possible.”
(Compiled by Patrick Matsinko, Jeff Moeller, TJ Engle and Kyle Magda)