Young captain on the rise

Junior captain T.J. Bocchino. (Photo courtesy of Sports Desk)
Junior captain T.J. Bocchino. (Photo courtesy of Sports Desk)

When T.J. Bocchino came to the College in 2007, it did not take long for the runner to make his presence known.  A brilliant inaugural season cemented his status as one of New Jersey Athletic Conference’s (NJAC) top runners, and Bocchino was justly dubbed the NJAC Rookie of the Year.

In 2008, Bocchino impressed again with his aptitude for the sport, executing All-Conference and All-Regional performances.  Bocchino also received an individual invitation to the NCAA National Championships in which he finished 137th out of 278 competitors, and Bocchino aided the Men’s Cross Country program in earning its 15th consecutive NJAC Championship. The then sophomore clocked in with a very respectable third place finish in the 8k race at the NJAC Championship.

Although Bocchino has achieved numerous athletic accolades in only half of a college career, he was on path for a much different sports career in high school.
“I had been playing basketball,” Bocchino said. “And in my freshman year of high school I didn’t make the team. So I figured I’d run track to stay in shape for next season … Then I found out I was pretty good, and I haven’t looked back.”

Bocchino has only gotten better since his high school days at Toms River East. So good in fact, that he has been named captain for the upcoming 2009 campaign.

“His teammates voted him captain,” said head coach Phil Jennings. “We’re a young team so his leadership is detrimental to our success.”

Knowing that he has his teammate’s backing and respect, Bocchino is confident that he will be able to take the squad’s reins and steer it in a winning direction.

“Our team is very young and in order for us to function the way we want to we’ll need leadership … We really lacked that [leadership] last year, but I think I can help provide it.”

In the short term, Bocchino feels his youthful band of runners needs to work on “gaining experience,” and, he believes some of the younger racers need to use the first few meets as a valuable learning experience.

As for the captain’s personal goals, “I want to be an All-American, and to do that you have to finish in the top 35 at Nationals.  I didn’t have a great individual performance at Nationals last year, so I really want to improve upon that.”

Bocchino has progressed steadily each year he has competed in a Lions uniform.  The determination the captain possesses to improve on a daily basis will undoubtedly cause his younger counterparts to strive toward excellence day in and day out.