Neumann-Goretti shot putter sets school mark

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At 6-foot-4 and 270 pounds, Joe D’Emilio is enjoying his physical maturation yet is not shunning the simultaneous need to build up his mental acuity.

The sophomore at Ss. Neumann-Goretti High School, 1736 S. 10th St., relied on both blessings May 16 as he hurled his way to a second-place shot put finish at the PIAA District 12 AA Championships. Having initiated his track and field existence only three months ago to complement his football talent, he subsequently qualified for last week’s state meet.

“As long as I focus, I know I can achieve anything,” the resident of the 1300 block of Reed Street said Tuesday at his East Passyunk Crossing institution. “I’ve had great support but even I’m a bit surprised it’s all come together like this.”

Taking the advice of first-year track coach Lincoln Townsend, D’Emilio decided in February to be a two-sport performer and selected the discus and the shot put as his disciplines. Having known nothing about either, he sought to gain confidence through each meet, especially his premiere, which he dubbed “not impressive.”

“Gradually, I’ve been growing stronger and I know it’s going to take thousands of throws to make it where I want to be,” the teenager said. “Football is my focus but I’m not doing this for nothing. I still have to be serious about it.”

Part of Townsend’s pitch involved convincing D’Emilio that he could easily squash the school’s shot put mark of 32-9, which he would go on to top in April with a 34-11 heave. Eclipsing that distance with a 35-8 chuck only days later, the Passyunk Square dweller began to feel even more motivated, with steady results in the discus also making his spring switch an introspective exercise.

“I think about improving all the time, especially my technique,” D’Emilio, whose training regimen includes time at Columbus Square Recreation Center, 1200 Wharton St., said. “Whatever I get involved in, I do it to the fullest of my ability.”

His adrenaline and ambition raging, he ventured to Northeast High School two weeks ago to test his brawn against that of the area’s best competitors. As he had failed to advance to the finals in either event at May 11’s Philadelphia Catholic League Championships at Upper Darby High School, he set out to gain redemption and distinguish himself among more experienced foes. In his preferred endeavor, he propelled the shot put a career-best 39-9 to claim the second spot among 12 entrants, falling three feet short of victory. He guided the discus 87-11 to finish in fourth place out of 10 competitors. The former result guaranteed him a trip to Shippensburg University last Friday, where his 38-11 offering put him 23rd out of 24 athletes.

“I wasn’t ready for states, but you live and learn,” D’Emilio said of the sting of not meriting overall Pennsylvania distinction. “I have tons of work to do and can’t wait for the indoor season, where I’m really looking for great results.”

When D’Emilio next aims to enter his school’s track and field annals, it will come after his having vied to lead the Saints to the pigskin postseason. Having taken up football two years ago, he has come to love its influence on his friendships and self-esteem. While those elements have appealed to him, the accumulation of triumphs has likewise compelled him, and last season he and his mates registered their program’s first winning campaign since 2006.

“I knew we would be a solid team, and I owe a ton to the seniors for helping us to mature,” D’Emilio, who started the whole year at right tackle after having earned late-season first-unit duties as a freshman, said. “I’m hoping this time can be even better and includes us getting into the playoffs.”

For his role in the successful run, which included victories over Horace Furness, 1900 S. Third St., and South Philadelphia, 2101 S. Broad St., high schools, he earned Second-Team All-Catholic honors, a feat he also hopes to improve upon once an upperclassman.

“The league is very competitive, and I want to make us better so that people think of us as a great football team,” he said.

Courtesy of his efforts, those individuals had better view the Saints as formidable track and field presences, as the boys’ squad won the overall District 12 title, and the girls’ gang gave commendable performances to finish 12th out of 16 representatives. No matter what he accomplishes in the discus and the shot put, football will always head his preference list.

“I definitely envision a pro career,” D’Emilio, with college interest already building, said. “If I continue to work, who knows?”

A fan of world history, he enjoys being a part of local lore thanks to his fruitful track and field exposure.

“I began to become stronger for football,” he said. “The records are a great bonus.”

Contact Staff Writer Joseph Myers at jmyers@southphillyreview.com or ext. 124.

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