EAST ROCKHILL >> Unlike in football, basketball or a multitude of other sports, track and field athletes don’t have hours of archived video to use in recruiting.
Getting noticed is a mix of posting good times or numbers and then being a little proactive in making prospective programs take not of them. Pennridge senior Tucker Desko wanted to compete in college and he wanted to do it at a big time program, so he took the initiative.
Desko’s willingness to put himself out there paid off and in a big way. Monday, the senior committed to run track at University of Oklahoma next year.
Thursday, Desko was one of 16 Pennridge seniors recognized for their college commitments in a gathering at the school.
“It’s been a long process,” Desko said. “During cross country this year I landed on Oklahoma and emailed them, they had wanted to see my times. I kept up with them through cross country and into the track season. I visited a couple weeks ago and I called them Monday and said I wanted to be there and I saw a good fit for me.”
Desko was also highly interested in Kansas State and said it was tough having to pick between the two. He started sending times last year, but mostly to smaller schools then at the end of cross country this year, after posting what he felt was a strong 5k time, Desko figured it was time to take a shot.
The Sooner coaches sent back some standards they wanted to see if Desko could reach and told him to keep in touch. That response was all the motivation Desko needed and he saw improvements across the board in everything, from his times, to his grades and even things like his diet and sleeping habits.
“I was really pushing for those times, it was a goal for me,” Desko said. “I put a lot more effort into everything.”
In the meantime, he has his sights set on a state title in the 800 and he likes the look of the Rams’ 3200 relay team.
Desko, who is strongest in the middle distance races like the 800 and 1600, figures to compete there at Oklahoma but could also do cross country. The senior said there was a lot of similarities with K-State and Oklahoma, but the experience of the Sooners coaches along with the convenience of everything on campus helped make the sell.
Desko is leaning towards majoring in business, with OU boasting a high national ranking among business schools.
“Looking up and saying I could be a huge factor for this team in this conference, it’s a really cool thing to be a part of it,” Desko said.
In her sophomore year, a couple of Jess Milligan’s friends talked her into joining the track and field team. She was pretty quick and in good shape from all her soccer playing they said, so she should fit right in on the track.
They were right and Milligan started to notice that running track was helping her on the soccer pitch and vice-versa. Next year, she’ll still be a two-sport athlete but only then she’ll be doing it at Bloomsburg where she will play soccer and run track for the Huskies.
“I love both so I didn’t want to have to pick just one,” the senior said. “When I first went on my visit, the soccer coach took me around and introduced me to some of the girls. They were so nice and it was so beautiful, so that kind of sold me right there.”
Milligan’s former Rams teammate Jess Supp was a freshman on Bloomsburg’s women’s soccer team this past fall and helped sell Milligan on the school. The idea to double up came from her future coaches and both were very much on board with the idea.
In soccer, Milligan isn’t sure where the team will use her, but her speed makes her a threat as a wide forward, where she played for Pennridge, or in the back, where she played when she was younger. In track, she’s likely going to stick with hurdles and could be part of a few relay teams with her speed again fitting in a couple of places.
“What helped me was starting track,” Milligan said. “Going into something not knowing what you’re going to do is scary and it’s hard. But when your coaches work with you and the other athletes on your team work with you, you get good at it and it shows how you can excel and hopefully I’ll be able to excel in college.”
Milligan is going in undeclared, but hopes to get into the biochemistry program. Stacking two sports on top of working toward a college degree is a tall task, but Milligan is going after it like she went after the hurdles for the first time.
“You just have to not be scared of it and that’s what the key was for me,” Milligan said. “If you fall, you just get back up and you do it again.”
Technically, Max Wagner was a new addition to the Rams boys’ basketball team this year. But for Wagner, who grew up playing with all the guys he played with this winter, it was just a homecoming after playing the last three years at New Hope-Solebury.
A late growth spurt shot the senior up to 6-foot-7 and he fit right in as a floor-spacing big man for the Rams. It wasn’t all smooth sailing, as a wrist injury robbed Wagner of a few games midseason and even when he came back, it wasn’t totally back to full strength. But it didn’t do anything to deter college coaches and the forward will be playing at Kutztown next year.
“They were the first one really interested in me,” Wagner said. “I went up for a campus visit and I loved it, the location and everything about it. It was the right fit for me. I like how they coach and I like their play style.”
Wagner said if he works hard enough, he thinks he’ll have a good shot to contribute right away. It might have taken a few years, but Wagner was able to have that one high school season with all his friends that he always wanted.
“Playing here was a great experience,” Wagner said. “Coach (Dean) Behrens and all the boys on the team, I couldn’t have asked for more.”
Also recognized Thursday: FOOTBALL – Dylan Krans (West Chester), DeVon Balmer (New Haven), Mark Funk (Widner), Matt Kraynik (Widner), Luke Basquill (Widner); TRACK AND FIELD – Owen Eisen (Bloomsburg), Jeff Espinal (Elizabethtown); BOYS LACROSSE – Sean Fechter (Eastern), Denton States (Immaculata); WATER POLO – Tom Schneider (Monmouth College), Kacie Cios (LaSalle); SOFTBALL – Julia Helbling (Penn State Altoona); TENNIS – Stephen Mehlbaum (Washington and Jefferson)
Unable to attend: GOLF – Andrew Simpson (Millersville)