Patience, persistance help Hampton’s Cafaro qualify for PIAA meet

Thursday, November 8, 2018 | 7:45 PM


When Joey Cafaro finished within five seconds of qualifying for the PIAA cross country meet as a sophomore, he was a prime candidate for a spot last year.

But things don’t always go as planned.

In December of 2016, he was diagnosed with a tarsal coalition, an irregular bone growth in his foot. After undergoing surgery, he got a late start to his junior campaign and fought back — only to come up short again. This time, it was a heartbreaker. Just one spot out.

In his last opportunity, Cafaro finally broke through. He finished 26th this year at the WPIAL championships with a time of 17 minutes, 20 seconds at Cal (Pa.).

“I knew I was going to be on the border again,” Cafaro said. “I had to wait until the results came up. I squeaked in. I was really excited about that. But I was really nervous because I didn’t know if I was in or not.”

Cafaro felt a sense of vindication after the struggles he has endured, only to finish so close twice before. On Nov. 3 in Hershey at the PIAA championships, he finished 135th out of 228 runners with a time of 17:56.

“Just knowing what it felt like the past two years,” Cafaro said, “it’s a validation of the training I’ve done. It just proved the work I put in actually paid off.”

Cafaro gives an assist to a change in his offseason diet, and it comes from an unlikely source — Tom Brady and his “TB12” diet.

“I drank a lot more water,” he said. “It’s maybe why in the past I’d got dehydrated. Less carbs but more whole wheat carbs and more vegetables. Foods that decrease inflammation.”

Cafaro noted he pulled elements from the TB12 diet but was not the full program. But it also helped him abstain from some of his vices.

“I haven’t had any sweets since the first week of August, and I love sweets. I don’t know how big of a role it played but, eating and drinking right, it had to have done something.”

Matt Gust, Cafaro’s senior teammate and close friend, finished just outside the qualifying with a 32nd-place finish. But he was happy that his friend found redemption.

“He’s had to deal with so much more than me,” Gust said. “Missing it by four spots sophomore year and having to get surgery and then missing by one spot last year. It definitely made me happier to see him make it than I was upset that I missed it.”

Coach Dean Longwell acknowledged both seniors finished strong.

“We knew it was going to be tight again this year for him and Matt,” he said. “They’ve gone back and forth a bit in various races. I knew being in the mid-20’s he was going to be on the edge. But it was a little bit of redemption for Joey to get in.”

Devon Moore is a freelance writer.


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