Versatility a strength for defending champion Lady Patriots

By Tom Robinson - For Sunday Dispatch

Pittston Area returns many of the leading performers from a track and field season in which it won the Wyoming Valley Conference Division 1 girls title while finishing third out of eight teams in the boys standings.

This year’s teams appear to have the possibility of continuing to excel in dual meet competition, where the girls were undefeated last season and the teams were a combined 12-2, while also pursuing individual district medals and state berths when the postseason rolls around.

“I’m definitely expecting to be in the contender level at the district championships,” Lady Patriots head coach Joe Struckus said.

As a girls team, Pittston Area did its best work in the regular season last year. Struckus said there may be a change in emphasis at times to make sure the team is strong going into the district meet.

“Last year, we were there, but then we had a couple injuries right at the end of the season that hurt us,” Struckus said. “This year, we’re working on changing that and making sure we’re a little healthier going in.

“There are some training things; some stuff that we did. We got some people hurt with some overuse injuries. We’re just going to be watching out for that a lot more.”

The teams are scheduled to open Wednesday at home against Hazleton Area.


Abby Norwillo, a senior who is headed to the University of Pennsylvania as a pole vaulter, has twice matched the height needed for a state championship, only to settle for the 2017 Class 3A outdoor and 2018 indoor silver medals in the event on tiebreakers.

While she ranks among the nation’s best high school pole vaulters, Norwillo is also able to help the Lady Patriots in other events on the local level. She was a District 2 runner-up in the long jump last season.

Pittston Area has the ability to score points in all types of events, something that was helpful in last season’s championship run.

The top three sprinters are back with senior Anjelica Singer, junior Jenna Smith and sophomore Olivia Norwillo.

Senior Charity McLeod, in the 400, and sophomore Nicole Zambetti, in the 1600, each scored individual district points with top-eight finishes while also being part of successful relay teams. Both will also run the 800, along with senior Mary Silinskie, who competes in that event and the 1600.

Junior Kayleigh Walker handles the distance events.

Ashton Ashby, a senior who was fifth in the district high jump, joins Abby Norwillo and Singer among the experienced long and triple jumpers. Sophomores Hannah Waleski and Kylee Moran are back with Ashby in the high jump.

Senior Andrea Ruby is the top hurdler.

Sophomores Leah Hodick and Emma Coles are the experienced throwers. Both handle the shot put with Hodick also excelling in the discus while Coles is stronger in the javelin.

Some of the most promising freshman are hurdler Giavanna Innamorati, middle distance runner Brynne McGoff and distance runner Shawna Rodzinak.


The Patriots are strong in hurdling and throwing and hopeful of production from young groups of jumpers and distance runners.

“We have three senior hurdlers, who are expected to do real well for us,” boys head coach Jason Mills said of Naseem Guillaume, Nick Barbieri and Shane Syms. “They’ve each been with us for three years at least and we’re expecting them to be leaders for us on the track.”

That group can also help with sprints, particularly relays.

Mills described the throws as “another area where we’re expecting to do real well.”

Seniors Walter Coles, who was fourth in the district in the javelin, and Jake Rutkowski, who was seventh in the shot put, both compete in all three throws.

Phil Cocco, another senior who is in his second year in the sport after earlier playing baseball, has made big improvements in the shot put during the winter indoor season.

Junior Alex Haas is the top returning sprinter while senior Trevor Tigue can help in the sprints and as an all-around athlete the Patriots can use elsewhere.

Senior Hunter Kraklio was seventh in the district 800 and may run the 400 as well.

“We’re getting a little better in the distance events,” Mills said. “We’re still a little young there, but a lot of the kids are back from a year ago so I’m expecting a lot of improvement there.”

Mills has heard encouraging reports from Struckus, who works with the jumpers from both teams during practice.

“Our jumpers are all going to be new, but I’ve heard they’re talented,” he said. “They’re either young or first-year seniors, so they have to learn.”

By Tom Robinson

For Sunday Dispatch

Reach the Sunday Dispatch newsroom at 570-655-1418 or by email at

Reach the Sunday Dispatch newsroom at 570-655-1418 or by email at