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Ram Pride: Ryan DiGiacomo following family’s footsteps as standout athlete at Gloucester Catholic

Gloucester Catholic's top male cross country runner, DiGiacomo has his sights set on a top-20 finish at this year's Non-Public Group Championship.

Gloucester Catholic’s Ryan DiGiacomo (right) passes GCIT sophomore Joseph Addeo as the two runners round a corner in a Tri-County Conference meet last Tuesday. DiGiacomo’s time of 17:54.95 was his best of the season.

There’s nothing senior Ryan DiGiacomo enjoys more than sporting the Gloucester Catholic maroon and gold uniform on the cross country course.

DiGiacomo’s family has been a part of the Gloucester Catholic community for more than 40 years. Ryan’s dad, Gary, played for the Rams’ legendary baseball program and his brother, Matt, was a sprinter with the track team. Attending Matt’s meets led Ryan to pursue running.

“When he was in high school, he was a track runner,” Ryan said of his brother. “I used to go to all of his meets. I thought it was the coolest thing.”

Now, Ryan is the latest member of the DiGiacomo family to star for the Rams. An all-Tri-County Conference selection in cross country his first three seasons, DiGiacomo has been one of Gloucester Catholic’s top runners since he joined the program and is aiming to be one of the fastest finishers at next month’s NJSIAA Non-Public Championships.

DiGiacomo’s achievements are remarkable considering he didn’t focus on long distance running at first. He began running in fourth grade at Christ the King School in Haddonfield and followed his older brother’s footsteps as a sprinter. Stamina and running long distances were not DiGiacomo’s strengths when he arrived at Gloucester Catholic in 2016.

“Freshman year, it was rough because I had never run more than maybe a mile and a half,” DiGiacomo said. “At the very beginning, it was very tough just to get through all of the longer runs because your lungs aren’t used to that.”

DiGiacomo credits Gloucester Catholic cross country head coach John Heath with being instrumental in his growth as a long distance runner. DiGiacomo said Heath helped in developing a training program where he gradually built up his stamina and his ability to run long distances at a quick pace.

Heath doesn’t want to take any of the credit from DiGiacomo, however, describing him as one of the hardest working runners he’s come across.

“He’s like a coach’s dream,” Heath said. “He’s done everything you could ask for. He goes out, runs on his own, gets up early and runs distance. He’s a hard worker and it’s really paying off. I think he’s going to have his best season this year by far.”

By his sophomore year, DiGiacomo was Gloucester Catholic’s fastest runner. His improvement between ninth and 10th grade was evident in his times at the Non-Public Championships. As a freshman, DiGiacomo finished in 97th place with a time of 20:36. One year later in the same race, DiGiacomo finished more than 60 spots higher, in 34th place with a much faster time of 18:50.

DiGiacomo is not just a hard worker on the cross country course. He is one of the top students in Gloucester Catholic’s senior class. This year, DiGiacomo is taking three advanced placement classes and plans to major in either computer or electrical engineering in college.

“AP Psychology is a really interesting class,” DiGiacomo said about his AP classes. “It’s not necessarily my favorite, but I think it’s great. Calculus, for whatever reason, is my favorite class. Math has just come naturally to me.”

“Your best runners are also good students,” Heath said. “At Gloucester Catholic, we’ve had the valedictorian of the class almost every year from the cross country team. (Ryan) fits the profile. He may not be the valedictorian, but he’s one of the top students in his class.”

Gloucester Catholic senior Ryan DiGiacomo (middle) tries to get out ahead of the pack during a Tri-County Conference meet last Tuesday.

Entering his final cross country season, DiGiacomo has big goals for where he wants to be for the Non-Public Championships in November. After finishing a career-high 32nd in the Non-Public finals last year, DiGiacomo plans to break into the top 20 this year.

“I wanted to beat all of my times from last year,” he said. “My best time from last year was about 17:40 and that was at the end of last season. This is about midway through the season and I’m already at 17:55. Hopefully by the end of the season, I’ll be able to beat that.”

Regardless of how DiGiacomo’s senior season ends, Heath believes he has left a lasting impact on the program by encouraging the team’s other runners to shoot for the stars.

“It gives them something to aspire to,” Heath said. “When the best kid on your team is a hard worker, a good student and he’s setting the pace for the team, they see what’s possible.”

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