By Mike Gibson
For the Wire
Holy Ghost Prep defeated league newcomer Church Farm by 16 points to preserve one of the longest traditions in any high school league in the area, a 19th-straight Bicentennial Athletic League title.
About the time Church Farm entered the Bicentennial Athletic League just short of a year ago, Holy Ghost Prep head track and field coach Mike Meistering figured something out.
The Firebirds had better get cracking if they were to make their BAL title streak 19 in a row.
Meistering should know. He’s been at the Bensalem Township school for all 19 of those years, the last seven as a head coach. (He’s been either a head or assistant coach with the program for the past 22 seasons.)
Meistering concluded he needed to add more talent to the program by actively recruiting athletes in fall sports who might not normally run track and participate in field events in the spring. Mix in some new kids with some older kids and stir.
The recipe worked.
Last month, Holy Ghost Prep beat league newcomer Church Farm by 16 points to preserve one of the longest traditions in any high school league in the area, a 19th-straight BAL title.
For comparison, the 2012 Firebirds won the BAL by 50 points.
Few schools dominate their league in any sport the way the Firebirds dominate BAL track and field.
Meistering said he had known since last spring that “this spring was going to be tough.” He added, “We did it by having more kids come out for the team.”
“After last spring was over, I mentioned to the returning guys that the seniors were going to be gone and they had to work to get new guys on the team.
“Before the spring season, I made an announcement at the [student] assembly, ‘We’ve won 18 straight titles, if you’d like to see the school win a 19th, come out for the team.”
The appeal to school pride worked.
“We were able to have 50 guys on the team and, during the indoor season, we only had 32,” Meistering said. “We had four newcomers who were consistent scorers, including a senior, Matthew Dott, who came out for the team and got fifth in the pole vault.”
After the final BAL Championship meet totals were in, Meistering got his calculator out.
“We won by 16 points and I figured without the newcomers, we would have won by one,” Meistering said.
No one appreciated the new kids on the block more than Patrick DiIorio, who won both the discus and the javelin at the championships and was named BAL Most Valuable Athlete.
“Honestly, without those guys, I don’t think we would have won,” DiIorio said. “In the beginning of the season, we felt we might lose for the first time.
“We were looking at what (Church Farm) had done and what we had done and it was going to be tough if we didn’t get some new talent. Personally, I didn’t recruit anybody but I know some other guys on our team actively went out and talked to guys about coming out.”
Another newcomer who helped was sophomore J.P. McLoughlin, who scored in the jumps, and Joe Iwasyk, who was part of the winning 4×800-meter relay team with Christian Kardish, Kyle Spielberger and Patrick Dineen (8 minutes, 18.22 seconds).
Kardish, a veteran, also won the open 1,600 (4;34.93) and 3,200 (9:50.71).
Another returning athlete from last year, Brandon Davis, won the long jump (20, 1/2 inches).
DiIorio’s contributions were largest, though, because he gave the Firebirds needed points in three areas with his winning discus (126–4) and javelin (153–0) throws in addition to a fifth-place in the shot put.
“I knew the Church Farm guy (Mlynue Reeves) had a personal record that was 20 feet further than mine, but I got a good throw in early and that got him off his game,” DiIorio said. “In javelin, I was a lot more confident because my PR was 20 feet further than the next guy, but my coach told me before the competition to do it as though I was behind.
“There’s definitely a lot of mental attitude that goes into winning and I think that proved to be true in the BAL Championships. Without the mental part, it’s all strength and muscle and you can’t win on one or the other alone.”
The mental part went into planning the team and without all that, the Firebirds would not have been able to keep an impressive trophy in their hallway for another year.
Mike Gibson can be reached at email@example.com