Zach Lankow knows taking over for legendary coach Ray Carey as head coach of the St. John’s Prep indoor and spring track programs is not going to be easy, but he has first hand knowledge of what it takes to be successful.
Lankow captained all three track teams and was a Catholic Conference all-star for the Eagles as a student. He was a member of the state champion indoor and outdoor relay teams before going on to Stonehill College where he was a three season track standout all four years. He teaches religious studies at the Prep and served as an assistant to his high school track coach Carey this past season.
“I was a volunteer coach for John Boyle’s cross country team a year ago,” said Lankow, who lives in Saugus. “I teach five sections of freshmen, and being in the classroom at St. John’s gives me a huge advantage. I was a soccer player when I came to St. John’s, and I thought I was Pele. It was a big shock to me and 50 other kids when we got cut, but one of the track coaches urged me to go out for that sport. It changed the whole trajectory for me.
“When one door closes a window opens, and that is true for so many athletes at St. John’s because there are a lot of great ones on campus. I’ll put the word out that track may work out better for those kids that get cut. They should give it a try, and may find they really enjoy it.”
Lankow is the cross country coach for the new middle school, and is looking forward to working with future varsity runners. As far as making changes in the program Carey built, he doesn’t intend to mess with success.
“I’ve got big shoes to fill,” he said. “Ray Carey has been the face of Prep track and field for 39 years, and while I will try to put my own spin on things I know they do things the right way here. I’m not about to make any big changes.
“Being a volunteer coach last fall meant I already knew 25 per cent of the kids on the indoor track team from cross country. I know all the dynamics are going to be crazy for a while at the middle school, but cross country doesn’t need a ton of space so we should be just fine.”
Lankow said he really appreciates the support Carey offered when he decided to apply for the head job. Talk around campus is about the possibility of a new indoor track that will be a big plus for the athletes that have to run outdoors all winter.
“If that gets approved it will be pretty amazing. The kids have been running from the Brothers’ House to the fire escape,” he said. “They all know what that means, from one end of the driveway to the far end of the building. It’s tough when there’s snow on the ground and it’s 10 degrees out, but it does give them that little bit of toughness factor that is good to have. We don’t want to lose that edge when and if we got an indoor facility.”
After being involved in Salem Little League since 1992 Indians manager Jeff LaJoie will no longer be part of the program. He and his family have moved to Winchester. LaJoie managed the District 16 champion Williamsport team — the first time a Salem team ever won a district title — and took that group all the way to the Section 4 finals before bowing out to Andover North.
Sean O’Keefe was one of his coaches, and last week the two squared off to decide the 2015 Salem champs. O’Keefe’s Giants had to beat the Indians twice to win, It was a tough task, but they did it. The first victory came on a walk-off hit, and in the rematch Jake Miano blanked the Indians, 3-0 to give his team its first title since 2008.
“Jake pitched an unbelievable game, throwing only 72 pitches in six innings,” said O’Keefe. It was a scoreless game until we got three runs in the bottom of the fifth. William Foglietta pitched a strong game for the Indians; it was everything a championship game should be between two pretty equal teams.”
There were five members of the District 16 champs on the Indians (3) and Giants (2), but O’Keefe pointed out the other kids all stepped up to make a difference.
“We’re going to miss Jeff,” he said. “He was president of the league for three or four years, and is a great guy. He’s real quiet and smart; he knows his baseball. I coached him in basketball when he was 13-years old. I wish him the best, but it will be hard to find somebody to take his place.”
Football practice hasn’t even started, but Prep coach Brian St. Pierre has been busy making changes. On Wednesday St. Pierre found out the dates changed for two away games. The Central Catholic tilt is moved from Friday night to Saturday evening at 7 p.m. at Lawrence Stadium on September 19 because of a scheduling conflict.
Shortly after that he learned that the Catholic Conference game against CM in West Roxbury has also been switched from Friday night to Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m. on October 10.
It wouldn’t be surprising if they locked the doors when they saw Mardee Goldberg arriving next summer for the New Hampshire State Senior Games. Goldberg won three more medals in table tennis earlier this month, marking the fourth straight year she has taken singles, doubles, and mixed doubles there.
Tennis will be out of the question for a while as the Beverly and The Villages in Florida resident recovers from hip surgery.
“I won’t be able to play for a while, but I plan to do a lot of swimming,” said the 67-year-old.
Jean DePlacido is a correspondent and columnist for The Salem News. You can contact her at JMDeplacido@aol.com.