A Neumann-Goretti track star competed in last weekend's state championships.
If Joseph DiGiacomo has his way, high school track and field will soon vie with baseball and basketball for local fans. Friday, the Neumann-Goretti junior competed in the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association Track and Field Championships at Shippensburg University’s Seth Grove Stadium.
Statewide, DiGiacomo, 17, was ranked among the top-20 in the 800-meters. Suburban athletes dominate the rankings, so DiGiacomo’s feat affords the school a “little South Philly moxie,” fourth-year coach Dan Keefe said.
DiGiacomo has been building that moxie since sixth grade. The resident of the 2800 block of South 16th Street began as a baseball aficionado, patrolling center field as a T-baller.
“The inspiration to try track came from my brother and father who were both runners.” DiGiacomo began as a sprinter but soon gravitated towards his current discipline.
He and the distance have worked well together. DiGiacomo qualified for last weekend’s PIAA’s by placing third in last month’s District 12 Class AAA Championships at Northeast High School. He finished with a personal-best time of 1:58.76 — his first sub-two-minute result.
At 5-foot-8 and 140 pounds, the lean DiGiacomo has been a member of Neumann-Goretti’s track and field team for three years.
“Joe was the team during his freshman year,” Keefe, who also teaches in the school’s English department, said.
The squad now fields 60 members.
“We have built our foundation from Joe. His success has helped to establish this program,” the coach said.
Modesty, however, seems DiGiacomo’s credo. As the team’s captain, DiGiacomo knows he is a torchbearer, and revels in that role.
“I see Joe as our program’s model,” Keefe said.
“I don’t mind being that,” DiGiacomo added, with a smile.
The athlete follows a rigorous physical program.
“In the winter, I run through the halls on the second and third floors. When the spring comes, I do distance running at 10th and Bigler and at The Lakes,” he said.
He calls on squats to give his legs their necessary power and relies on an athlete’s staple, carbohydrate loading, before a big meet.
“Pasta and my mom’s gravy do it for me,” he said.
Always aiming to be ahead in all matters, DiGiacomo has begun to think about graduation and beyond. He has looked at the well-established athletic training programs at Temple and West Chester universities.
“I would like to run professionally,” he said of his prospects.
Keefe and Health and Physical Education teacher Dominic Rapino do not doubt that their pupil will. “He’s all heart,” Rapino, who has had Joe in class and will have him again next year, said. “It’s amazing to think about what he’s accomplished.”
In Friday’s preliminaries, DiGiacomo’s time of 2:01.93 was not enough to put him through to Saturday’s finals.
Daryl Nelson cherishes occasions to compete, such as his 1987 Thanksgiving Day masterpiece for the former St. John Neumann High School, 2600 Moore St., when he ran for 337 yards to lead his alma mater to a 43-0 thrashing of South Philadelphia High School, 2101 S. Broad St.