May Athlete of the Month: Kokolis throws his way to sectional victory, Meet of Champions

The Cherry Hill East senior took first place at the South Jersey Group 4 sectional meet with a personal best throw of 165-feet, 2-inches.

Editor’s Note: Each month from September through June, The Cherry Hill Sun will select one athlete from Cherry Hill High School East or Cherry Hill High School West as its Athlete of the Month.

Cherry Hill East senior Nick Kokolis prepares to throw the discus during a practice attempt last week prior to the NJSIAA Group 4 state meet. Kokolis through a personal best 165-feet, 2-inches to take first place in the discus at the South Jersey Group 4 sectional meet on May 24.

Cherry Hill East track and field thrower Nick Kokolis saved his best performance for last at the South Jersey Group 4 sectionals on May 24.

Kokolis was the last thrower in the boys discus event at sectionals and after leading the event earlier, he found himself in second place after Jackson Memorial’s Colin McCarthy had a throw of 156-feet, 4-inches to take the lead. Kokolis would have one toss to try to finish in first place.

“Walking into the circle, I felt a lot of pressure on me, because it was my last throw and it all came down to the wire,” Kokolis said. “I felt like all of my training led up to that point. It was all about I could handle adversity. I felt like I handled it pretty well.”

Kokolis did more than just handle the pressure well; he threw the discus father than he ever had in a meet before. Kokolis’ last throw landed at 165-feet, 2-inches to give him first place and make the senior a sectional champion for the first time.

“I was really excited,” Kokolis said. “I was screaming. It was awesome.”

Kokolis’ success comes after four years of hard work and constant repetition. Kokolis picked up track and field in ninth grade for the first time and committed himself to learning both the discus as well as the shot put.

Jeffrey Bramnick has worked with Kokolis his entire career as Cherry Hill East’s throwing coach and was impressed with his work ethic from the beginning. Bramnick still recalls a day when Kokolis was in ninth grade where he gave the freshman two drills to do on his own during practice.

“I put him out in the field and said, ‘I’m going to give you these two things to do. Just stay out there until I come for you,’” Bramnick said. “He’s out there way by himself and he kept looking over at me, saying ‘Is this OK?’”

“Most of the kids, they don’t want do (drills),” Cherry Hill East head coach Anthony Maniscalco added. “One thing Coach (Bramnick) has always said is he knew Nick was going to be good because of his constant practicing of this little details.”

Nick Kokolis does some warm-up tosses as he prepared for the Group 4 state finals last week.

Bramnick believes Kokolis’ work ethic separates him from other throwers. The progression can be seen in Kokolis’ personal best throws from each year. As a freshman, Kokolis best toss in the discus was 101-feet. His PR went up to 123-feet as a sophomore and then 149-feet, 10-inches as a junior.

“He’s gone up every year he’s been here, both in shot (put) and discus,” Bramnick said.

Kokolis previously played football in the fall in addition to throwing with the track and field team. This year, Kokolis dropped football to focus on throwing full-time.

“There was a time period of June to December where it was all training,” Kokolis said. “Not just discus, but weight training in general.”

This season, Kokolis has hit 160-feet or more in many of the meets he’s competed in. His throw at sectionals was just 10 inches short of the school record of 166-feet set by Johnnie Jackson in 2012.

Breaking the school record is one of Kokolis’ final goals in his high school career. He came up a bit short of the record at the NJSIAA Group 4 Championships last weekend. However, Kokolis’ best throw of 164-feet, 2-inches was enough to qualify him for the NJSIAA Meet of Champions on June 8, giving him one final high school meet.

After graduation, Kokolis will attend Rowan University where he will continue his throwing career.

“I felt like Rowan was a good fit for me,” Kokolis said. “It’s close and I saw the potential the school had. It’s a good team and they have great academics.”