A podium finish? A victory, perhaps?
Austin Desisto seems to think so.
On Friday night, the Westford Academy senior will be part of a talented Distance Medley Relay squad that will be competing at the 127th annual Penn Relays Carnival. Desisto, along with teammates Owen Shultz, Jack Graffeo and Paul Bergeron, are among 16 of the best schools from the northeast region that are entered in the Championship of America (COA) event.
Desisto feels Westford has a good chance to proper inside historic Franklin Field. Typically, a time in the low 10-minute range can often earn you the coveted Penn Relays wheel that’s awarded to the winning team of each COA event.
After finishing second in the 800m this past weekend at the BSR Mid Distance Classic, Desisto indicated that’s a time he believes is well within reach of his team in Philly.
“I think we have a really good chance at the win if we race well,” he said. “The time is going to come. It’s probably going to be under 10:10 (for the winning time). I heard that’s what they’re predicting. I heard there could even be teams under 10 (minutes). I don’t know about that. But I think if we race really hard and compete like we know how to, we’ll have a good shot.”
During the indoor season, the Ghosts finished ninth at the New Balance Nationals with a state best of 10:15.49. By combining the PRs of all the team members and factoring in the outdoor surface and the atmosphere of a meet like the Penn Relays, Westford Academy could, no doubt, produce a very strong performance on Friday night,
Graffeo, who will run the opening 1,200m leg, has a best of 4:19.66 for the mile. At the very least, a solid leg for the talented sophomore for the three laps could be 3:10, 3:11, possibly faster. Shultz will take the baton for the 400m leg . He has a best of 51.85 and this past winter clocked 1:24 for 600m. Desisto is the 800m leg and ran his best of 1:58.11 at the BSR meet. Bergeron will finish things off as the 1,600m anchor. He ran his all-time best for the mile of 4:17.45 during indoor and a few weeks ago ran 8:52.78 for 3,200m at the Arcadia (CA) Invitational. He’s proven recently that he’s capable of a significantly faster effort.
The favorite in the race is Nike Indoor National champion Episcopal (PA) Academy, which ran a fast 10:08.93 at NIN. Defending titlist Union Catholic is back. The New Jersey squad edged Saint Raphael (RI) Academy and fast-charging anchor Devan Kipyego at last year’s meet with a time of 10:14.42 to the Saints’ 10:15.41 effort, thanks to Kipyego’s 4:04.35 split. Another top team is the Christ School (NC), which has two sub 4:10 milers in Rocky Hansen and Drew Reeves. It would certainly be an upset for Westford Academy to pull off a victory this weekend with the level of talent on the line. But take last year’s race for example. No one expected St. Ray’s to have a chance at a win, even coach Chris Magill, who was hoping to just make the podium, Yet the Saints nearly did it against a field that had two teams with seeds under 10:10, including Union Catholic at 9:55.12 and Corning (NJ) at 10:08.37.
It’s been proven time and time again, anything can happen when you have some of the best answering the gun at a big meet, such as the Penn Relays.
“The goal is to hand (the baton) to Paul with people,” Desisto said. “He has some great runners on that last leg but I think he’ll do pretty well if we give it to him in a good spot. I think we can all drop pretty big PRs (on Friday) with such great competition and a large crowd,”
For Desisto, running at the Penn Relays holds special significance. His dad, Robert, who is WA’s high jump and sprint coach, was a top 300-yard specialist for Revere in the 1980s and played football and ran track at the University of Pennsylvania where he competed at the Penn Relays. His brother, Rob Jr., also ran at the prestigious meet.
“We’re all really excited,” he said. “It will be a really special meet. I am just going to enjoy the atmosphere and embrace it.”