Red & Black are off to a solid start in varsity action

There was a time not so long ago that Honesdale was a bona fide contender for both a Lackawanna League and District Two track & field title every single spring.

Under the direction of Coach Mike Jurkowski, the boys team won a AAA championship in 2010, then followed that up with a third place finish the following year.

The girls were very nearly as impressive, posting back-to-back runner-up performances those same two seasons.

Sadly, the program has fallen upon tough times in recent years. All told, the Red & Black have managed just one regular season win in league action since 2014.

Their cumulative record over the course of that span is a dismal 1-39.

A New Era

In light of these numbers, Honesdale decided to make a change this year and Pete Casazza was appointed head coach of the varsity program.

Coach Casazza made his debut Wednesday afternoon and led the Red & Black to their first meet sweep in more than five years.

The boys team defeated West Scranton by a score of 85-50, while the girls posted an 82.5-57.5 win.

“I'm very excited to be part of this program,” said Coach Casazza. “We have a great group of kids and they are working really hard.

“We got off to a good start this week and now I'm just hoping we can build on that. We've got a long way to go, but I definitely think we're headed in the right direction.”

Chris Cespedes paced the Hornets' attack, powering his way to three individual wins. Mackenzie LaMorte led the Lady Hornet charge by virtue of two gold medal efforts.

With these two team victories now on the tally sheet, Honesdale turns its attention to the Lackawanna League's regular season schedule which begins this coming week.

Coach Casazza's squads will put out the proverbial welcome mat for Scranton High School on Tuesday.

Action gets underway at 4:15 p.m. at the Daniel J. O'Neill Sports Complex.

“The biggest thing I want the kids and our fans to know is that we're serious about turning the program around,” Coach Casazza said.

“I have a great staff here helping me and we're all working hard to put these kids in a position where they can be successful.”

Versatility

Honesdale's boys team showed flashes of brilliance in just about every aspect of the West Scranton meet.

The Hornets earned gold medals in relays, sprints, middle distance, distance, throws and jumps. This enabled them to cruise to a comfortable victory.

“We scored points in all phases of the meet,” Coach Casazza said. “And that's one of the things I really want to stress. We have to be versatile.We may have to plug our kids into a lot of different events to be successful as a team.”

Cespedes led the way.

A junior multi-sport standout who also excels in basketball, Cespedes finished first in the 100M (11.6), 200M (25.0) and the high jump (5-4).

“The scary thing is Chris still doesn't understand how good he could be,” Coach Casazza said. “He is an amazing natural athlete. If Chris focuses and works hard, there's no telling what he can achieve.”

Dustin Edsall also earned multiple individual wins for the Hornets. He opened with a victory in the mile (5:15), then struck gold in the 3200M (11:34).

Connor Coar ran the anchor leg of Honesdale's triumphant 3200M relay, combining with teammates Bobby Kretschmer, Tyler Olver and Thor Crozakian to post a time of 10:02.5.

Coar then tacked on a win in the 800M, crossing the line at 2:32.

Kameron Slish chipped in with a first place finish in the pole vault, clearing the bar at 8-6.

Honesdale sealed the deal on a team victory by sweeping all three of the throwing events.

Joey Scarfalloto fired the javelin a distance of 154-11, which raised eyebrows among coaches, teammates and competitors alike.

“Hey, it's only March and Joey's already just two feet off his PR in the jav,” said Coach Casazza. “And, he's also running in the sprints for us this year. Joey is a big strong kids, but he's also one of our fastest runners.”

Julian House won the shot with a throw that measured 39-6.25, while Isaiah Simms wrought gold in the discus at 108 feet.

Tapping Potential

Honesdale's girls varsity squad is anchored by a contingent of battle-tested distance runners.

Mackenzie LaMorte is at the top of that list.

A senior who's earned District Two medals in cross country, LaMorte dominated both the 800M (2:41.9) and 3200M (14:17) against West Scranton.

“Mackenzie worked hard during the off-season and that's already starting to pay off,” Coach Casazza said. “Mackenzie is a competitor who hates to lose and a very good role model for our younger girls.”

Also earning high marks from her rookie mentor is Mackenzie Meagher.

Another member of a talented senior class, Meagher soared to victory in the triple jump (30-8). She also scored team points in the long jump, 100M and 200M sprints.

“Mackenzie is a hard-worker too and she really wants to win,” said Coach Casazza. “She's willing to do whatever it takes to be successful. Mackenzie is a versatile athlete who we'll probably move around quite a bit this season.”

The Lady Hornets got off on the right foot with a win in the 3200M relay. Keturah Mayers, Thea Miller, Rachel Olver and Shannon O'Day combined to post a gold medal time of 11:40.

Dalen Banicky captured the 100M hurdles (18.4), while Miller finished first in the 400M (1:10.6).

Dana Pratt contributed a gold medal in the mile with a time of 6:09.

Alex Skidmore rounded things out for Honesdale with a victory in the high jump (4-6).