First Posted: 5/17/2013
Every May Pittston Area high school sports fans watch the District 2 Track and Field Championships to see if the six District records the program has will last another year.
This year was a little different. The question wasn’t how many can the program hold on to, but how many can it add?
The answer is two.
Ron D’Eliseo set a District 2 AAA 300 hurdle record with a 38.10 breaking a decade-old record established by Steve Kerestes of Coughlin. And Madison Mimnaugh, Tara Johnson, Samantha Mayers and Catherine Lombardo set a record in the girls 3200 meter relay.
There’s a sweet back story in the record setting run for Catherine Lombardo. Her father, Mike, holds the same record in District 2 boys championships with Jay Loughney, Joe Brannan and Bruce Marancik. In 1982 they ran a 8:00.84, 16 seconds faster than the gold medal time this season.
The Pittston Area 4 x 800 record was one of six District 2 3A boys records held by Pittston Area before D’Eliseo added the 300 hurdle record Tuesday to make it seven. That means of the 18 track and field events over one-third of the records belong to Pittston Area and four of them are three decades old. Of the other 12 records, five were set in the past three seasons, which is what would be expected given it is conceded that athletes today are generally bigger, stronger and faster than athletes 30 years ago.
So what was up with Pittston Area track in the 1980s?
There isn’t a ready explanation, but three of the athletes from that era and one of the coaches who were interviewed last May described a perfect storm of students-athletes and coaches who came together during the Golden Age of Pittston Area track and field from 1980 to `85.
During those seasons the PA boys track and field program won 86 consecutive regular season Wyoming Valley Conference meets and six consecutive District 2 championships and set the four enduring records in the 4 x 800 and 4 x 400 relays and the individual 400 and 3200 runs. In addition to those records, PA’s Lance Kern set a high jump record in 1984 at 6’-9” which lasted until 2002.
Mike Lombardo said the coaching and the will of the athletes were the keys. A story about Tommy Doran, the 3200 record holder illustrates that will. “I’ve never seen anybody work as hard as Tommy Doran. I remember only once that he got beat and he got so angry he ran home five miles. He had the biggest heart and one of the toughest.”
Joe Costello, who was the head coach then, agreed. “They didn’t mind if they lost to someone better or lost with a personal best time, but if they got upset they took it personally. They were an exceptional group. They had the will to win, worked hard, set goals, accomplished goals. And they were academic students. We were at a point where all we had to do was make sure they were at the meet on time and dressed appropriately. I can’t tell how much I respected those kids.”
Jay Loughney said the coaching and the program’s reputation were important. “I put it on the coaches. Calabrese fostered a junior high program and that success bred success. They were charismatic inspiring coaches. They would set individual goals for everybody on the team not just the stars. When we were there, to be on the track team was a good thing. It attracted the best athletes. Everybody wanted to be part of it. The coaches created an environment where people thrive. I ran cross country at Bucknell where they had an eight-year winning streak. The similarities were both teams had charismatic coaches and athletes who were good students.”
Loughney lives in Collegeville with his wife Leigh and three school age athletic kids, Riley, Ayden and Declan, who has the third grade record in the fitness mile at his school.
Al Michalec was on the 1981 4 x 400 record team and he recalls the record run. “Our goal was to break the record that Valley West held. We were a little over confident. During the hand-offs we were showboating with the baton. Fortunately, we still broke the record.”
He also credits the coaches. “We had the desire to succeed. Track was a vehicle to earn a bachelor’s degree. That may have had something to do with it. And I believe a lot of it had to do with the coaches. All of them were great motivators, and they always keep us guessing. Coaches Joe Costello and Joe Orlando keep us believing that we would break the state record if we worked hard.”
Michalec and the 4 x 400 team did lower their district record time by five seconds at the state meet a week later and finished fifth in a high-powered field. West Chester set a state record that day that lasted until 1997.
The coaches during that era were Joe Costello, Joe Orlando, Ray Calabrese, Leo Monteforte, Mike Orlando and Lenny Pesotine.
The two PA records not set in the Golden Age are owned by John Dessoye in the 100 and 200 in 1995 and 1996. Dessoye was just different.
He won the state championships in the 100 and 200. He won the state championship in the 100 in 10.46, which was .02 seconds off the state record held by Olympic Gold medalist Leroy Burell and .02 second off Rocket Ishmail’s AA District 2 record of 10.44.
The Pittston Area District 2 Track and Field records
4 x 800 relay - Mike Lombardo, Jay Loughney, Joe Brannon, Bruce Marancik 1982 (8:00.84 )
400 - Vince O’Boyle 1982 (48.74)
3200 - Tom Doran 1983 (9:19.54)
4 x 400 relay - Ed Zaleski, Al Michalec, O’Boyle, Jack Goldowski 1981 (3:23.44)
100 - John Dessoye 1995 and 1996 (10.64)
200 - John Dessoye 1996 (21.44)
300 hurdles - Ron D’Elieso 2013 (38.10)