Sports

New St. Francis track coach Pompei teaches athletes patience, persistence


Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
St. Francis High track coach Phil Pompei roots on his runners at a recent meet.

As a student at St. Francis High, Phil Pompei was a standout in cross-country, soccer and track. Ten years later, the Los Altos native teaches at the school and coaches there.

The boys cross-country coach since 2013, Pompei was named co-head coach of the track and field team this year.

Pompei said the two lessons he hopes to impart to his athletes are patience and persistence – virtues he learned as an athlete at St. Francis and later at the University of Illinois.

“In order to make big improvements in our sport, it takes a lot of time and practice,” he said. “It also takes a certain level of grind to be a good runner, and teaching that to them is really important to me.”

Pompei noted that his favorite high school memories include traveling with the team and having the opportunity to run with older brother Sam on the varsity team.

“We had a successful year together on the same team,” Pompei said. “We finished side- by-side at the state meet, which was very exciting.”

During his junior year at Illinois, where he ran cross-country and track, Pompei began to ponder what he wanted to do after college.

“As I was thinking about a career path and discerning a location, I thought about where I would be most useful and make an impact on others,” he said. “I thought about the people who had the biggest impact on me, and the coaches and teachers at St. Francis were those people.”

After contacting coaches and administrators at St. Francis, Pompei was offered a job right out of college in 2013. Along with coaching cross-country, Pompei was hired to teach religion and serve as an associate minister. In January, Pompei was named co-head coach of the track team, a responsibility he shares with longtime coach Mike Saso.

“I was happy to be asked to step into this role and to be able to add more passion and enthusiasm to the program,” Pompei said. “This is one more opportunity to help the team and the athletic department.”

Success at league finals

The team has done well this season, specifically in Pompei’s specialty – distance running. He said the Lancers’ hopefuls for the upcoming Central Coast Section meet include distance runners Colton Colonna and Shyam Kumar, boys who are also on the cross-country team.

Colonna finished fourth in the 1,600-meter run (4 minutes, 18.20 seconds) and fifth in the 3,200 (9:30.97) at Friday’s West Catholic Athletic League finals at St. Francis. Kumar was third in the 3,200 (9:29.17) and sixth in the 1,600 (4:23.35).

Teammate Eric Eng took second in the 3,200 (9:28.22).

Four St. Francis boys won their events: Travis Bell-Dzide (15:12 in the 110 hurdles,); Matt Johnson (145 feet, 6 inches in the discus); Desai Lopez (6-4 in the high jump); and Scott Toney (15-1 in the pole vault).

Euan Cairns was the runner-up in the 800 run (1:55.91) and anchored the second-place 4x400 relay team (3:25.41).

Freshman Isabelle Cairns paced the St. Francis girls by winning two individual events – the 400 dash (58.78) and 800 run (2:18.03) – and running the lead leg of the victorious 4x400 relay team (4:02.95).

The Lancers’ 4x100 relay team won as well (49.22).

Kaley Peterson, another freshman, placed second in the 200 dash (26.24) and third in the 100 (12.51). Camille Esterlechner finished second in the long jump (16-8) and triple jump (35-3). Milana Sarathy took second in the 300 hurdles (47.45) and Sophia Sapp was third in the discus (98-5).

The St. Francis girls and boys teams both finished second at the meet.

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