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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Shadle Park sprinter Tony Pizzillo ranks as triple threat

By Greg Lee For The Spokesman-Review

By the time Tony Pizzillo graduates next month, he will leave Shadle Park High School as its fastest sprinter.

And if his dream comes true by month’s end, he’ll leave a mark at the state level.

The Highlanders athlete is chasing a rare feat – to be the State 3A Triple Crown sprint champion by capturing titles in the 100, 200 and 400 meters.

Pizzillo has broken school records this spring that were set three decades ago. He clocked 10.50 seconds two weeks ago in the 100, besting 10.75 set in 1982. He eclipsed the 22-second mark in the 200 for the first time last week with 21.98, two-hundredths of a second faster than a record set in 1985.

He has some work to do in the 400. His personal best, 48.77, came last year. The record is 47.88, which was set in 1985.

Pizzillo is not so inwardly focused that he forgets about others.

“He’s not a me guy, he’s a team guy,” Shadle Park coach Jonathan Simpson said. “He wants to get his times, but he’ll do whatever I ask.”

Pizzillo’s coaches appreciate his work ethic. In fact, they must caution him at times.

“Tony has to be told, ‘Not so hard,’ ” Cecil Jackson, Pizzillo’s summer club coach, said. “The biggest thing is getting him to be patient.”

This much is clear – Pizzillo is on pace to have his best state performance, Triple Crown or not.

Last year, he took second in the 200, third in the 400 and fourth in the 100.

Pizzillo is ranked No. 1 in all three events among 3A athletes and No. 1 for all classifications in the 100 and 400. His best friend, club teammate and future Washington State University teammate Charles Johnson of Cheney, is No. 1 overall in the 200.

Dorien Simon of Lakes is right on Pizzillo’s heels in the 100 and 200. Pizzillo knows his times posted now mean nothing when he lines up at state against Simon.

“The past two weeks I’m back to where I want to be, and I just want to keep progressing,” Pizzillo said.

Pizzillo has another goal that is much more ambitious than any of his goals. He wants to be the first sprinter in state history to run a wind-legal time of less than 21 seconds in the 200.

Ja’Warren Hooker of Ellensburg has the all-time best at 21.02 set in 1997. Former University High standout Anthony Buchanan is listed in Greater Spokane League records with 20.7, but that time was hand-held. It’s the all-time best hand-held time in state history.

Pizzillo, who ran 21.26 in a meet last summer, is ranked fifth all time.

“Once I’m back to my peak form, I think I can do it,” Pizzillo said of cracking 21 seconds. “I feel like I’m getting stronger.”

WSU coaches are excited to have signed Pizzillo.

“Tony will be an invaluable addition to our sprint squad,” WSU assistant coach for sprints and relays Yogi Teevens said. “He was highly recruited …. It’s inevitable that he will become one of the top sprinters in the Pac-12.”

Pizzillo is looking forward to his career as a Cougar.

“Our sprinting squad at WSU will have a chance to be one of the best teams in the Pac-12,” said Pizzillo, who carries a 3.5 grade-point average. “When I went on my visit, they made it feel like home. I love the coaching staff, and Yogi will make me a phenomenal sprinter in college.”

Pizzillo has already built a solid foundation through his intense hard work.

“Everyone says his best event (in college) will be the 400,” Simpson said. “But running 10.5 in the 100 shows he will be a complete sprinter, just like he is now.”

Pizzillo was asked if he would win showdowns in the 100 and 200 against Johnson.

“Honestly, we push each other,” Pizzillo said. “Sometimes I get him, and sometimes he gets me. I love racing against him.”

They’ll be cheering each other on at state later this month.

This summer they’ll team up in the 400 relay with former North Central sprinter Noland Wick and Elijah Gordon, who lives in Avon, Connecticut. They want to win a national Junior Olympic championship.

Last spring, Wick, now running at Community Colleges of Spokane, won the State 3A title in the 100.

“Our big goal is we want to be the third team in national history to go under 40 seconds in the 400 relay,” Pizzillo said.

Pizzillo grew up playing baseball. When he realized in seventh grade that he was fast, he decided to quit baseball for track.

“It was a tough choice, because people always thought I was fast on the bases,” he said. “I’m glad I made the switch. I love to compete and I love being at the top, and I’ll do anything to be there. That’s how I want to be in college also.”