SCRANTON – When Marc Anthony Minichello and Philip Cocco entered high school, the only objects they planned to throw in athletic competition in the spring was a baseball.
As they near the completion of their high school careers, Wyoming Area’s Minichello and Pittston Area’s Cocco are gold medalists in throwing events in another sport.
Minichello and Cocco not only won gold medals, but also led strong performances by their teams in their respective specialties during Monday’s District 2 Class 3A Track and Field Championships at Scranton Memorial Stadium.
For Minichello, who still doubles as the center fielder on the baseball team, the javelin gold medal and district record were redemption for a championship meet gone wrong a year ago.
Cocco completed a rapid 14-month ascent in the shot put his best event in the sport he picked up after leaving baseball behind as a junior.
Minichello got support from another athlete who spends time elsewhere in the spring. Sophomore Dominic DeLuca, one of the leaders of a championship lacrosse team, turned part-time work filling in on the track team into a fourth-place finish in the javelin.
Cocco was joined by teammates Jacob Rutkowski and Walter Coles in second and fourth place to make Pittston Area’s shot put performance the highest-scoring in any one event in the week’s district championships, 3A or 2A, boys or girls.
The 23 points earned in the shot put helped Pittston Area finish fourth and made the Wyoming Valley Conference Division 1 champions again the best among conference teams.
Wyoming Area, which won just one dual meet in the regular season, used help from Minichello and DeLuca to finish seventh, beating out a dozen teams in the 19-team field.
Minichello was already regarded as a state contender last year after finishing fourth in District 2 as a sophomore. Three straight fouls in which he failed to legally land a throw within the boundaries of the throwing vector, however, prevented him from even recording an official distance on the district level.
“That was definitely crossing my mind 24/7 for the past week,” Minichello said. “I knew about it and I was thinking about every possible way that I could get over it, get a good mark to start off, then have fun from that point on.”
Minichello’s 178-2 was second to defending champion and fellow state qualifier Joey Grula of Hazleton Area after one attempt and each had already surpassed the state qualifying standard of 178-0, assuring that both would be competing at the May 25-26 Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association Championships at Shippensburg University regardless of what happened next.
Thus, he was able to have fun from that point on.
Minichello then threw 201-6 to break the record of 200-11 set by Coughin’s Justin Ryncavage in 2002. That was enough to win, but with three more attempts earned in the final, Minichello extended the record to 204-1 to win by almost 19 feet.
“It was a huge weight off my shoulders,” Minichello said. “That was a goal of both myself and my coaches of meeting the state qualifying standard, then relaxing and having fun.”
Not only was Minichello the only individual to set a District 2 Class 3A boys meet record this season, he had the day’s four longest throws and exceeded the state standard on all six attempts, again stamping the University of Pennsylvania recruit as a serious state contender.
“Last year, we couldn’t really figure it out; it was a real fluke thing that was going on,” Minichello said. “I’m just happy that we fixed it.”
DeLuca jumped from sixth to fourth place with a throw of 157-3 on his last attempt.
Cocco led the high-scoring team effort and earned a state berth.
“It’s exciting,” he said. “This is just my second year throwing. I used to do baseball and I switched up to this.
“I wanted a change and a couple buddies and the throwing coach said, ‘come out and throw.’ That’s what I did and it stuck.”
Cocco became part of a throwing group that was one of the biggest reasons Pittston Area moved from 2-5 in 2016 to 5-2 in 2017 to 7-0 division champions this season. His own improvement from the first year to the second was just as distinct.
Competing on the district level for the first and last time, Cocco took the lead on the first attempt. Although his margin of victory was not the same as Minichello’s, his consistency was, producing the day’s four best shot-put efforts, including the best three on all three opening-round attempts.
“At the beginning of it, I had low expectations coming in as a junior,” said Cocco, who won with 47-5 1/4. “I was just trying to do my best.
“I’m blessed. I’m extremely happy with it.”
Ryan Flynn from Abington Heights tried to take second place away from Rutkowski on his final attempt, but Rutkowski took it right back with 44-1 ¾.
Coles was fourth with 41-11 ½ as part of medaling in all three throws. His best finish was third in the javelin and he also added a sixth in the discus.
The top six in each event received medals and the top eight earned team points.
Hunter Kraklio also medaled in three events while Michael Mikitish and Nick Barbieri scored in three for Pittston Area.
Kraklio and Mikitish were on the third-place 3200-meter relay team with Dominic Angradi and Kyle Mlodzienski and on the fifth-place 1600 relay with Barbieri and Shane Syms. Kraklio was also fifth in the 800. Mikitish was seventh in the 400.
Barbieri was fifth in the 110 high hurdles and eighth in the 300 hurdles.
Syms took fourth in the 300 hurdles.
Wyoming Area had Kayne Burton medal in three events and Steven Yordy two.
Burton was fourth in the 400 relay, fifth in the 100 and sixth in the 200. Yordy was third in the triple jump and sixth in the long jump.
Jevani Sancho was also on the 400 relay and took seventh in the 100.
Brian Williams and Vincenzo Scotto completed the sprint relay lineup.
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