New sprinting coach Joanna Romito’s experience promises success

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Sam Goodwin

Science teacher Joanna Romito coaches sprinting for Free State. “I want to make sure we all feel like we are a team, and that no one’s out there doing anything individually,” Romito said. Romito succeeded previous coach Kyle Ellis after he took a job at Washburn Rural.

Striding across the football field, new sprinting coach Joanna Romito works to reach the track’s finish line and shout out times as the sprinters complete a workout.

“I ran track and field in high school, and then I went on to KU and ran cross country, indoor track and outdoor track, so it’s something I’ve been a part of since I was very young and have continued to be a part of as I’ve gotten older,” Romito said.

This year, Romito took over for former sprinting coach Kyle Ellis, who accepted an administrative position at Washburn Rural High School.

While Romito attended KU, she student-taught at Free State for associate principal Steve Heffernan in the science department. Head track coach Jordan Rose student-taught at the same time as Romito.

“We were friends; we were in some of the same classes together before we got our teaching certifications,” Rose said. “… When she came in for the interview, I knew that she had some of that background knowledge that would assist her as far as coaching our kids go.”

Along with her personal experiences in the sport, Romito was eager to apply for the job because Rose is the head coach.

“I think very highly of her,” Romito said. “She is an amazing person and coach and leader and has been very successful, and I am honored to be a part of this program and coaching with her.”

Romito has experience in several event areas in track and field, so she was comfortable coaching sprints even though she focused on distance running in college.

“I was middle distance and then more distance in college,” Romito said. “I did do some sprints in high school. I ran the 100 actually a couple times in some meets, and it’s kind of weird for a distance runner to be running some sprints, but I did. And then I also did try some pole vaulting in college until I broke my hand.”

After Romito received her teaching certification, she taught and coached for three years at two middle schools in the Catalina Foothills School District in Tucson, Ariz. before taking nine years off to be a stay-at-home mom.

She’s not too lenient, but she’s not too strict, so she’s just right, and then I think she’s just overall a cool person.”

— Senior June Brooks

“We didn’t have a lot of coaches (in Tucson) who could be specific to a certain event, so I’ve coached everything,” Romito said. “This is the first year that I’ve specialized basically in one thing.”
Senior June Brooks began track for the first time this season and appreciates Romito’s guidance.

“She’s not too lenient, but she’s not too strict, so she’s just right,” Brooks said. “And then I think she’s just overall a cool person.”

Romito also describes her coaching style as a moderate one.

“For the most part, I think I’m pretty relaxed, but I do want to see kids working hard, and if I don’t see them [doing that], I’ll push them if they’re not able to push themselves,” Romito said.

Senior Laura Kennard, who has been on the team since her sophomore year, was used to Ellis’ familiarity with the team, and noted Romito is still learning about the athletes.
Romito’s top priority is ensuring the sprinters work together.

“First of all, I want to make sure we all feel like we’re a team, and that no one’s out there doing anything individually,” Romito said. “We’re just all rooting each other on and building a team and camaraderie first, and then I want to see kids improving and succeeding in whatever events they’re in.”

Although the team increased in size this year, Rose is confident Romito will handle her job with ease.

“Having a big group of kids that are going to come in with a lot of different skill sets, I knew that she would be really good at being able to kind of differentiate her coaching for those different kids,” Rose said.

Romito’s years of involvement with track and field and cross country speak to her passion for the sports.

“In general, I’m pretty passionate about track, and it’s kind of in my blood,” Romito said. “I love cross country, I love track, I love the atmosphere of meets as teams are gathered around screaming for their teammates—there’s just something really cool about that. And I love being a part of teams where people are just all supporting each other, and it’s a really fun sport to be a part of.”