Mcdevitt Track: Long-running Success Story Coach Paul Poiesz, Now Coaching Both Boys And Girls, Has Made Winning A Habit.

Posted: March 21, 1994

The track and field tradition at Bishop McDevitt was already rich, but Paul Poiesz has dumped a few more scoops of sugar into the mix.

Poiesz, who became the boys' head coach in December 1980, guided the Lancers to the Catholic League outdoor title in 1982 and then eight in a row

from 1985 to 1992. Indoors, there were league titles in 1987, 1988 and 1990, the same year they also won a state crown.

The girls' team, under his direction since 1992, finished second in the last indoor and outdoor seasons.

At a time when Poiesz originally thought he'd be well into a second career, he is still reaching new milestones in his first. The boys' team, third in the league indoors on March 12, hopes to challenge La Salle for another championship this spring, while the girls' team strives to continue the rapid improvement it has made over the last two years.

"I swore I'd do it for five years and get it out of my system," said Poiesz, who teaches math at McDevitt. "But I don't see that change occurring. I wouldn't be doing it if I didn't enjoy the kids and didn't enjoy being in the classroom and after school."

A 1978 McDevitt graduate, Poiesz ran 10.0 seconds in the 100-yard dash and was on the Lancers' record-setting Catholic League mile relay at the Penn Relays his senior year.

Poiesz continued running at La Salle College, but had a decision to make his junior year. He could continue his collegiate career - or take the head coaching job at McDevitt. "That was something I wanted to be a part of," Poiesz said. "I felt it should be an in-house decision. I had beening running since I was in sixth grade, and after eight years I was ready."

"McDevitt should be really proud of what it's accomplished," Poiesz said. ''Since the first graduating class in 1961, McDevitt has had high-quality track. That kind of tradition led me to want to get involved as a coach. There is a feeling for those who compete here that is extraordinary."

McDevitt's track and field program is more family than factory. The school has averaged only 220 graduates in the last few years, and it's the second- smallest coeducational school in the Catholic League. Father Judge, for example, graduates twice as many boys as McDevitt graduates students.

"The first thing is, you have to do get the athletes out," Poiesz said. ''In some ways that is getting tougher and tougher to do. One of the things you have to battle is people feeling you have to specialize. But if you make yourself a well-rounded athlete, the sport you specialize in will benefit also.

"In a school our size, it's vital we put that philosophy out. We can't be a one-sport school."

Football coach Pat Manzi and basketball coach John Mostak not only cooperate with the track team, they encourage and support it.

"The coaches are a great influence," Poiesz said.

Once the athletes are out for track and field, they receive expert instruction from Poiesz and his staff. Throwing coach Bob Supplee and hurdles coach Charles Diruin regularly produce year after year in their specialties. The staff also includes Dave Gibson and Phyllis Keyes, known as Phyllis Buber when she stood out for McDevitt in the early '80s before moving on to Virginia.

Poiesz, who handles all of the administration, also works with the jumpers. He can go to Gibbons for advice in the pole vault.

"A big part is willingness of kids to try events," Poiesz said. "We have won events others might not have interest in or technical instruction. The pole vault is definitely an event people don't want to touch."

Relays have also been responsible for many of McDevitt's points. Indoor titles for both the boys and girls came this season in the mile relay, a particular strength during Poiesz's coaching and running career.

"The best way to go about that is to look back at my roots," Poiesz said. ''It becomes something that perpetuates itself. It's good for teamwork and you can combine younger runners in with older ones to get experience."

Now, Poiesz is combining the boys' and girls' programs. Before the new format, Marie Jones consistently coached the girls to top-five finishes in the league.

"A lot of people, when they heard I'd be taking the girls' team, said it would be completely different," Poiesz said. "I haven't changed anything I do. My coaching philosophy is the same. We have been so fortunate with the boys, I didn't take a different approach just because it's girls.

"Athletes are athletes. They all have their own idiosyncrasies. It's individuals being different rather than boys and girls being different."

Or in McDevitt's case, being the same. Winners.

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