JFK grad LaMonica sprints her way to YSU

Recent John F. Kennedy graduate Antonella LaMonica overcame adversity to become one of the area’s best sprinters the past four years. The 5-foot dynamo outclassed many of her bigger and stronger competitors, and now it has led to a track and field scholarship to Youngstown State.

For LaMonica, the opportunity is surprising, but not for the reason you may think.

“I started in seventh grade with Jake (Coates). I never wanted to run track,” LaMonica said. “I used to play AAU basketball and my sister was a dancer, but it was really hard on my parents, because they couldn’t afford both.

“Being really active and wanting to play a sport, it was either softball or track, but everyone wanted me to run track because I was fast. Now I’m going to YSU for it.”

LaMonica proved to be a quick learner, as she went on to win the state 100 and 200 meter sprint events in middle school track and field, alongside her training partner Coates, who will head to YSU to play football.

High school proved to be a rather seamless transition, as the soccer and basketball standout not only set the school record for career points in basketball, but also went on to qualify for the OHSAA track and field championships in Columbus each of her first three years.

Along the way, LaMonica continued to master her craft, and even made podium as a sophomore down at state, placing fifth in the 100 and seventh in the 200, while recording a best time of 12.49 in the 100 event.

Eagles coach Jack Thornton, also coaches LaMonica with the Warren Striders Track Club, put it best when it comes to his first impressions of her.

“She’s quick, she’s fast,” Thornton said, laughing.

“She worked at what she was doing and she was going up against people she knew she could run against. She showed potential (right away), and she had ran 1/10th of a second faster than the fastest girl on our team at the time.”

Despite her successes, LaMonica experienced disappointment to end her career. After a rough outing at this year’s district meet, Antonella was unable to qualify for state for a fourth time.

That, however, has not deterred LaMonica. And while some would dwell on being undersized — which, according to Thornton, frequently led LaMonica to getting an early lead on her competitors only to see it slip away thanks to the long strides of her opponents — LaMonica never uses the lack of size to define her successes or disappointments.

Instead, she puts it out of her mind come race time, and just focuses on the task at hand. The Division I collegiate level will only create a greater obstacle for LaMonica going forward, but she’s more than ready to tackle the challenge.

“I know it’s gonna be tough with a new coach and all those great athletes,” LaMonica said. “I’ll be running indoor track for the first time and training almost all year, but I just plan on working hard and getting better.”