One threw the weight a personal-best 68 feet, 3 inches and later claimed the state championship.
The other threw the shot a personal-best 62-0.75 to win the state federation championship.
This year, two seniors, Lakeland/Panas’s Cameron Thompson and Iona Prep’s Andrew Cannistraci, share The Journal News Westchester/Putnam boys indoor track and field athlete of the year award.
The planets aligned, it can be said, when a wispy, 5-foot-7 kid was cut from the Iona Prep freshman basketball team.
Andrew Cannistraci might have been sad at the time but he has definitely recovered.
With that freshman winter free, he migrated to track and there he has developed a name as one of the state’s top throwers.
As early as his sophomore year, Cannastraci received a letter from UCLA. The Bruins likely either saw or heard about his 49-7.5 early-spring throw in California and they were interested in him throwing for them.
Ultimately, about 30 schools pursued the New Rochelle resident.
Northeastern won that contest. Cannistraci will go there next fall.
But before then, he plans to work to leave records at Iona Prep.
That effort included winter track, where the senior did something that wowed veteran Iona Prep coaches, who aren’t easily wowed.
In one day at the state federation championships, he twice threw the shot more than 61 feet to set and then re-set the school record. Then, he put a giant-size exclamation point on that with a 62-0.75 throw.
Cannistraci, who said he was in a slump from the middle of last June to the middle of winter, had kept plugging away.
Iona prep throwing coach Chris Scarella, who said one of his biggest attributes is persistence and an “ability to drive through those droughts,” took in Cannistraci’s calm, confident demeanor the morning of the state Federation meet and felt “something good was going to happen.”
Throwing nearly four feet beyond his previous best was just that and more.
“He really left the whole entire coaching staff speechless,” Scarella recalled.
Clearly, UCLA had a good eye for talent.
But so did Cannistraci’s throwing buddy, Sam Tobia. It was Tobia, who was already throwing the shot, who convinced Cannistraci to join him his freshman year.
Tobia out-threw Cannistarci in their first meet together. Since then, Cannistraci has bested his friend.
But there are no hard feelings.
“He tells me my college career is because of him,” Cannistraci said with a grin.
He’ll pursue that career at a school smaller than UCLA but one at which he “really connected” with the team while visiting.
“I fit in,” said Cannistraci.
The same can be said of Iona Prep. His brother, Daniel, is a sophomore on New Rochelle High School’s track team, but Cannistraci wasn’t particularly happy in the public school system, so his parents enrolled him at Prep, where he has grown as a student and athlete and has just plain grown.
He’s now 6-4 and 275 pounds.
And yes, coaches asked him to play football “so many times,” but that idea was repeatedly vetoed.
“My mom would not let me play,” Cannistraci explained.
Dina and John Cannistraci don’t have a problem with track, although Andrew thinks, initially, his dad, a former Stepinac baseball player, “was kind of upset” when he decided to forego baseball.
Now track is popular enough in the family that his eighth-grade brother, Nicholas, will pole vault next year for Iona Prep.
This year, though, belongs to Andrew, who wants to set the Westchester County record, win the state Federation title and gain all-American status at Nationals in the shot. He’d also like to set the county record in the discus, a mark currently held by an Iona Prep alum.
None of this will likely draw nearly as much public notice as recording a big sack or hauling in a TD pass would have hadi he played football.
But Cannistraci is happy.
“When I set personal goals and then break (records) it makes me feel good,” he said. “When I excel I feel really good.”
Suffice to say, he’s feeling really good right now.
It’s hard to envision Cameron Thompson as a heavyweight. Compared to many throwers, the 6-foot, 185-pounder is a beanpole.
But somehow when he was a 5-foot 8, 125-pound freshman, Thompson thought of himself as fat.
He had some bulk around his waistline and a little bit of a double chin, he said.
And so Thompson, who “wasn’t very active” and whose main recreation was playing video games, joined the Lakeland/Panas combined track team.
It wasn’t love at first sprint.
“Running killed me. I hated it way too much. But if I quit (my friends) would make fun of me,” he recalled.
And so he stayed. He ran exactly one 300-meter race. And he did the long jump. He liked jumping but those same friends made fun of him because he didn’t jump far, nothing like, for example, Beacon High’s Rayvon Gray, who soared more than 26 feet last month.
“It was more like the square root of what he jumped,” Thompson said, laughing.
So by spring, of his freshman year he was ready for a change and the change was throwing the shot, discus and javelin.
“It wasn’t like anything else. It made me feel stronger,” he said.
He never got the hang of the javelin but this spring, he’ll throw the shot and discus and his personal favorite, the hammer.
This past winter, he excelled at throwing the weight, which he places as number three behind the hammer and discus on his favorites list.
He threw the weight a personal-best 68-03, nearly 25 feet farther than when he first started throwing it as a sophomore.
Thompson, who’s No. 2 in the country in the hammer so far this young, outdoor track season, turned serious about his throwing quickly. By fall of his sophomore year, he was working with private coach Paddy McGrath, who still coaches him.
He practices not just at school and with McGrath but also at home, something that has gotten his 9-year-old brother, Elias, a third-grader, throwing, too.
“It’s good he’s getting started early. That would have helped me a lot,” said Thompson, whose older brother, Javier, 20, a Manhattan College student, played basketball in high school.
But Thompson certainly looks like he knows what he’s doing. While lifting weights three days a week, he relies more on speed and technique than strength to get things to fly.
His Lakeland/Panas throwing coach, John Benvin, said, “He’s very sound and solid in his technique, which has been the reason behind his great results. Other throwers usually go more on strength alone but Cam takes pride in his technique. It’s clear he does since he gives up some weight to throwers at Nationals. He’s not the biggest kid competing but he is without question most solid in his technique. … I see him improving over the rest of this season and into college.”
But Thompson has plans well beyond that.
After turning down multiple offers, including from several South Eastern Conference schools and Wisconsin, he’ll throw the hammer and weight and maybe discus next year for UConn, where he plans to study engineering.
He hopes to compete and to medal in the Pan-American Junior Championships in the summer of 2017.
That would be a stepping stone.
He’s got athletics in his genes with his dad, Clement, being a former football and basketball player from the Bronx and his paternal grandfather once a player on Honduras’s national soccer team.
But it’s his mother’s heritage that may help his realize his sports dreams. His mom, Rhonda, was born in Trinidad and Tobago, which gives Thompson dual citizenship.
While Thompson remarked throwing heavier objects in college (the weight is 35 pounds vs. 25 and the hammer 16 instead of 12) is “going to kill me. I’ll be done,” that’s a joke..
Thompson’s ultimate goal is to throw the hammer in the Olympics for either the U.S. or his mom’s home island nation.
That’s been the goal since his sophomore year.
For the immediate future, while States don’t offer the hammer, he wants to finish top-six at Nationals to gain all-American status in the hammer, something he missed by just one inch last year.
That’s a small goal, of course, compared to the ones down the road – the ones that will require Thompson to throw a lot farther. But Thompson likes to set the bar high and thinks he is just beginning to tap his potential.
Despite big high school numbers, he said of the hammer, “I still haven’t mastered it.”
Coach of the year – Joe Intervallo, New Rochelle
The rest of the first team from schools in Westchester and Putnam
55 – Anthony Roderick, Sr., Hackley
55 hurdles – Matt Konigsberg, Sr. Harrison
300 –Sean Ideozu, Sr., Mamaroneck
600 – Alex Worsley, Sr., Somers
1,000 – Eion Nohilly, Sr., John Jay-Cross River
1,600 – Kevin Hazelwood, Sr., Brewster
3,200 – Sam Morton, Jr., Mamaroneck
4×200 relay – New Rochelle (Najee Bass, Jr.; Keelan Thomas, Sr.; Nuku Tsiagbe, Sr.; Mike Baker, Sr.)
4×400 relay –Mount Vernon (Shaquille Dacres, Sr.; Joshua Zincke, So.; Phylroy Palmer, Jr.; Jason Perlaza, Jr.; Johnathan Hemmingway, Sr.)
4×800 relay – Pleasantville (Eric Hughes, Sr.; Dylan Bronkema, Jr.; Drew Dorflinger, Sr.; JC Yahia, Jr.)
High jump – Jashua Celestine, Jr., Lakeland/Panas
Long jump – Anthony Roderick, Sr., Hackley
Triple jump – Armand Pappas, Sr., Croton
Pole vault – Loukas Glover, Sr., Harrison
Coach of the year – Joe Intervallo, New Rochelle
55 – Prince Forson, Sr., Stepinac; Keelan Thomas, Sr., New Rochelle
55 hurdles – Michael Panzarino, Jr., Somers
300 –Prince Forson, Sr. Stepinac; Jimmy Sandling, Sr., Rye Country Day
600 – Eric Hughes, Sr., Pleasantville
1,000 – Mike Delfay, Sr., Brewster
1,600 – Ryan Gallagher, Jr., Briarcliff
3,200 – Drew Dorflinger, Sr., Pleasantville
4×200 relay – Mount Vernon (Shaquille Dacres, Sr.; Tysese Moore, Jr.; Phylroy Palmer, Jr.; Jason Perlaza, Jr.; Joshua Zincke, So.)
4×400 relay – Harrison (Kevin Aguirre, Jr.; Peter Burkhardt, Jr.; Ellery Rajagopal, Jr.; Matt Konigsberg, Sr.) ; New Rochelle ( Keelan Thomas, Sr., Najee Bass, Jr.; Chris Hinchey, Sr.; Jonny Barragan, Jr.)
4×800 relay – Brewster (Erik Jacobsen, So.; Luca Riolo, Jr.; Kevin Hazelwood, Sr.; Mike Delfay, Sr.)
High jump – Numan Maloney, So., Somers; Jack Ryan, Sr., Stepinac; Daniel Vilajeti, Sr., Scarsdale
Long jump – Armand Pappas, Sr., Croton
Triple jump – Najee Bass, Jr., New Rochelle
Pole vault – August Iorio, Sn., Iona Prep; Louis Logsdall, Fr., Iona Prep; Charles Smith, Sr., Hendrick Hudson
Shot put – Jack Zimmerman, Jr., Briarcliff
Weight throw – Jack Zimmerman, Jr., Briarcliff
55 – Najee Bass, Jr., New Rochelle; Shaquille Dacres, Sr., Mount Vernon; Jimmy Sandling, Sr., Rye Country Day; Frank Vesuvio, Sr., Byram Hills; 55 hurdles – Chris Hinchey, Sr., Scarsdale; 300 –Keelan Thomas, Sr., New Rochelle; 600 –Stephen Romer, Sr., Lakeland/Panas; 1,000 – Thomas Avolio, Jr., Valhalla; Drew Dorflinger, Sr., Pleasantville; JC Yahia, Jr., Pleasantville; 1,600 – Greg Fusco, So., Somers; Theo Henderson, Sr., Haldane; Sam Morton, Jr., Mamaroneck; Conner Sexton, Sr., Rye Neck; 3,200 – Will Young, Jr., Mamaroneck; 4×200 relay – Somers, Yonkers; 4×400 relay – Lakeland/Panas; 4×800 relay – Fox Lane; High jump – Noah Abrahams, Jr., Stepinac; Dan Dempsey, Jr., Pelham; Michael Panzarino, Jr., Somers; Long jump – Kakeru Ito, Fr., Harrison; Takenari Miki, Sr., Eastchester; Daniel Vilajeti, Sr., Scarsdale; Triple jump – Dmitry Cafri, Jr., Briarcliff; Eilon Silverfrankel, Sr., John Jay-Cross River; Daniel Vilajeti, Sr., Scarsdale; Pole vault – George Zakharov, Jr., Croton; Shot put – Christopher Dutra, Sr., Iona Prep; Cameron Thompson, Sr., Lakeland/Panas; Sam Tobia, Sr., Iona Prep; Weight throw – Christopher Dutra, Sn. Iona Prep; Andrew Hirsch, Sn., Harrison; Jamel Sharpe, Sn., Mount Vernon