When Joshua Santiago competes in the triple and long jumps at this week's PIAA Class AA track and field championships, it is exceedingly likely that, among 20-plus participants, he will have had the least amount of coaching of anyone.
That's because Santiago, a senior at Bok and the District 12 Class AA champion in both events, has had no instruction in either sport by a jumping coach - none, zilch, nada in the three years he's been in the sport.
Santiago, who moved to the United States from Puerto Rico as a seventh grader, took the district's triple jump title last week with a leap of 44 feet, 61/2 inches and the long-jump crown with a mark of 22 feet even. He picked up the events as a freshman, took his junior year off, and is now far and away the best jumper across the Philadelphia Public and Catholic Leagues, essentially without peer.
All without any guidance beyond some instruction sheets provided by a coach from Masterman, he said.
"When I'm jumping right now, about 44, 45 [feet], that's all natural," Santiago said at the District 12 championships. "If I had a jumping coach, I think definitely it would be a lot better, a lot more."
First-year Bok head coach Ross Whiting, 26, has a background in running events. The soft-spoken Santiago lauds his coach for the help he has provided, despite a limited knowledge of the field events, and credits Whiting with motivating him to rejoin the team as a senior.
"Josh has been, pretty much, searching on his own from tips and tricks from other coaches," Whiting said. "And they've been very helpful."
Now Santiago moves to states, where the winning Class AA triple jump mark last year was 48-111/4 and the long jump was 22-043/4. Santiago, who believes he can exceed 46 feet in the triple and will likely eye more than 22 feet in the long jump, will be in clear contention to at least place, if his form holds true.
He's just getting started in a sport in which he is still green. He hopes to walk onto either Temple or Penn State's track team next spring and is applying to the schools for next year's second term.
And remember: no formal coaching, ever. Just natural ability, a cool demeanor and simple desire.
"He works hard in everything he does," Whiting said. "Exceptional."
Record breaker. Upper Moreland's Drew Magaha broke a District 1 Class AAA record that had stood since 1996 on Friday when he trumped the field in the 1,600-meter run, turning in a time of 4 minutes, 10.99 seconds that easily bested the mark of Hatboro-Horsham's Dan McKay (4:13.09) set 15 years ago.
Magaha's closest competition in the race was Great Valley's Ned Willig, who placed second in 4:13.86. Chris Campbell, a Council Rock North senior who will run distance for Penn State next season, took the bronze in 4:15.98.
The 1,600 title was Magaha's second straight. His time is the fastest in Pennsylvania this year and 16th in the nation, according to MileSplit.us. And he's only a junior.
"District record is something everyone dreams about doing and having it," he said Friday. "I'm still pinching myself."
Including Magaha's mark, five District 1 records across both Classes AA and AAA were broken this year.
Quote of the week. Cheltenham's Matt Gilmore, the Penn State recruit who won the District 1 Class AAA titles in the 200- and 400-meter dashes, on the state championships:
"Mentally prepare myself for what I have to do. This track thing is so much mental, it's crazy. . . . I know I'm the best out here and no one should be near me. Once I start believing that, and really thinking about that more during my race, it's going to show."
Coming up. The PIAA track and field championships take place this Friday and Saturday at Shippensburg University.