Lebanon Track Athlete Earns Top Honor
John Cioffredi of Lebanon clears 6 feet, 6 inches in the high jump, winning the event during the NHIAA Division II Indoor Track and Field Championships at Leverone Field House in Hanover, N.H., Sunday, February 2, 2014.
(Valley News - James M. Patterson)
Lebanon — By now, John Cioffredi knows all too well that his chosen sport is called track and field for a reason.
Three older Cioffredi sisters made their names in the running half of the Lebanon High track program. All three continued to run in college, so — as John’s parents occasionally reminded him — somebody had to pick up the field half of the deal.
The youngest Cioffredi sibling has more than held up his end. On Friday, the Lebanon High senior landed the title of New Hampshire Gatorade boys track and field athlete of the year for the versatility — mostly in field events — that helped the Raider boys win the NHIAA Division II indoor and outdoor state titles this year.
Cioffredi heads to the University of Vermont as the three-year New Hampshire D-II champion in the high jump. He claimed the same event in June’s Meet of Champions and, in Division II, won the triple jump as a senior, the shot put as a junior and the indoor high jump as a sophomore.
The Cioffredi family now has bookend Gatorade awards — oldest daughter Anna was the New Hampshire girls track and field winner in 2008. One for the track, one for the field.
“I knew that I had been nominated, but there are a lot of really talented guys in New Hampshire,” Cioffredi said on Friday. “I’m really excited to be selected among them. There is so much talent this year; it’s humbling to be considered the best.
“It’s very cool that I’m able to follow in (Anna’s) footsteps. Anna was such a great athlete in the state of New Hampshire. To be in the likes of her and (Lebanon grad) Dom Filiano, who also won the award (in 2010), it’s cool to be considered that kind of talent. They were two people who accomplished something special in the sport of track and field.”
It was during Anna’s junior year that first-year Lebanon head track and field coach Kevin Lozeau, then an assistant to Andrew Gamble, came to know a certain fifth-grader who would grow into another top-shelf talent. Where the Cioffredi girls drifted toward running, the one boy in the family proved to be plenty versatile in the throwing and jumping realm.
“He was just one of those kids that hung around, very interested in the sport,” Lozeau recalled on Friday. “He’s a multi-sport athlete. He always liked to hang around and see what he could learn. He was always more interested in the jumps, but as he grew and got stronger, he really wanted to be more of a decathlete.”
Plenty versed in track and field from watching his sisters as well as participating in Lebanon’s youth program, Cioffredi quickly made an impact as a Raider freshman. A hop of 41 feet, 7 inches, gave him second place at D-II outdoor states; he followed with a 41-9 at the Meet of Champs to qualify for New Englands and figured the triple would be his high school specialty.
“I think, as I went through the (Lebanon High) basketball program and through my weight training progression, it became more natural for me to lean for the high jump, where it’s more power-oriented and doesn’t take as much speed as the triple,” said Cioffredi, who also played hoop as a sophomore and senior. “I’m not blazing fast, but I make up for it on power.”
Individual state titles quickly followed. So did versatility and team points: In addition to winning his various events, Cioffredi posted 16 top-three results over his high school career between indoor and outdoor divisional states and the outdoor MOC. With Cioffredi contributing two wins and two runner-ups, the Lebanon boys took the outdoor D-II states last month for the first time since the end of a seven-year championship gallop in 2010.
“It’s pretty obvious he’s one of the more dominant athletes in the state as far as track and field,” Lozeau said. “He’s an all-around athlete. He started out at the high jump, long jump and triple jump and has taken on the throwing events.”
Being a Cioffredi, however, he couldn’t graduate high school without at least one big run.
With no triple jump at indoor states and athletes limited to no more than four events, Lozeau inserted Cioffredi on the 800-meter relay team whose result would eventually determine the team champion. When it became apparent the event would decide the meet, Cioffredi asked to be moved from leadoff to anchor; needing to finish fifth, Cioffredi and teammates Will Merchant, Matthew Stebbins and Craig Telfer took third place to claim the team crown.
“Being indoor and outdoor team state champion is easily the highlight of my senior year,” Cioffredi said. “It was a great way to cap it off.”
Having followed his sisters this far, Cioffredi isn’t about to stop now.
Anna took her Gatorade award to Boston College, where she ran sprints for three years. Youngest sister Michaela runs cross country and track at Ithaca College. Middle sister Tess just graduated from the University of Vermont, where she specialized in the 400-meter hurdles and captained the Catamounts for two years.
Lozeau thinks the youngest Cioffredi has a future in the decathlon, given the excellence he has shown in multiple events. Cioffredi is just happy to look ahead to college, the potential to exceed his high jump personal best of 6-8¼ (which, he noted, would have been good enough for second place at the America East Conference championship last month) and do what his parents thought he could do best.
“(They) always said I had to pick up the slack and be a field eventer,” he joked. “I eventually got to do all four at states, so I definitely was the field event athlete.”
Greg Fennell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3226.