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Cross country: Palisades’ Smigo captures league title


In third grade, Thomas Smigo ran in the annual Palisades 5K race, and he posted a time of 7:15, a relatively strong time for a 9-year-old.

It was then that he realized that running would be a part of his future.

Roughly six years later on the high school circuit, Smigo confirmed it.

The Palisades freshman was the top boys finisher in the recent Colonial League meet on the 3.1-mile course at DeSales University. Smigo topped the field in a time of 16:21.50.

“It really felt like that was my best run,” said Smigo. “I feel like I am in the best shape ever and peaking at the right time.

“I don’t think it has totally hit me yet. I’m still in shock and I never really expected to win it.”

After running well all season, Smigo had a good feeling about his chances. He credited the support of Southern Lehigh’s Alex Kane and Saucon Valley’s Matthew Chaikowsky, as he passed both of his friends down the stretch.

“I felt like I could possibly crack the top 10,” he stated. “I have been running pretty strong lately and improving my time.

“At the start, I wanted to draft someone mainly because of the wind. At the second mile, I felt really good and began to pass runners. The pace had picked up and I let him (Kane) take the lead. With about three-fourths of a mile left, I felt strong climbing the hill and then passed him.

“Both of them have really helped me with my running.”

Head coach Scott Antoni expected Smigo to eventually blossom as a runner.

“Thomas is an extremely hard working, driven athlete,” said Antoni. “I remember Thomas as an elementary school runner at 5Ks and track camps. His competitive nature is contagious on our team. He is a pleasure to coach and I look forward to seeing him grow over the next four years.”

Smigo has taken the family torch from his father, Joe, a 1983 Palisades grad who was a key member of the Pirates’ cross country and track team under former head coach Lou Gonsalves.

Carl Kemmerer and Todd Pomnitz, teammates of his father’s, hold school records in the 800, mile and 2-mile. Kemmerer holds the 800 and mile mark, while Pomnitz has the 2-mile record.

“My dad ran cross country four years and their team only lost one meet during that time,” said the younger Smigo. “They were very good and had a third-place finish at states.”

“Thomas has known all of them since he was a baby,” said his mother, Dawn. “And he wants to break their records.”

Smigo’s streaming confidence began when he notched a fourth-place finish at the Moravian Academy Lions’ Invitational at the end of August in a time of 17:30. From there, his season began to take shape.

“I felt good from the start and I was running well,” he said. “I really wanted to see what I could do.

“Now, I know I can be a top 10 runner and I have to keep working to stay among the top five. I believe that I can peak at the right time.”

Along with Smigo, the Pirates’ boys team finished third from a field of 12 teams, and the girls team was fifth among 11 teams.

“We were very happy with the teams’ performances,” said Antoni. “We wanted to run as a pack, and we were able to do that most of the race. This team loves to run together.

“We are really looking forward to districts.”