Lou DiMaio sat at a table inside Twelve Acres Restaurant/Banquet venue Monday night, listening – and watching his colleagues – toast a host of Johnston High School senior athletes.
Throughout the evening his fellow JHS coaches talked about “Panther Pride” and how many athletes from the small suburban school on Cherry Hill have made an impact at the statewide level in a number of sports.
Then he watched one of his standout performers – Elijah Burgess – accept the Panthers prestigious Male Athlete of the Year Award, as applause filled the room.
Burgess and his JHS teammates – namely Nate Vasquez, Carlos Fragoso and Sean Young – represented the Panthers in the recent Rhode Island Interscholastic League state track meet in the 4x100 relay team.
“They entered the event in 11th place,” DiMaio later explained. “They finished in ninth.”
For those not familiar with track and field, that was impressive simply because the Panthers performed against schools much, much larger than JHS that all have seasoned and high-powered programs.
“The boys ran well all year and defined what a ‘team effort’ can produce with hard work and devotion,” the Panther coach offered. “They also set the tone for our younger team members.”
Likewise, DiMaio said we also had “inspiring performances from the girls on our team. Our girls high jumpers scored well and ninth graders Brynne Roche finished tied for sixth in the states and Lala Olagundoye finished second in the state meet.”
Given that, DiMaio said smiling: “We are looking forward to next year. With an influx of new talent from the (Ferri) Middle School program and he addition of weight specialist coach Jeff Noel from Woonsocket whose first year here created a cohesive group of boys and girls weight throwers, our future looks brighter than ever.”