Wilmot’s Anthony Poco has excelled in multiple sports as a Panther, including track and field, where he reached the podium with three others on two occasions at the WIAA Division 1 state meet. He is the 2017 Report Athlete of the Year (Submitted/The Report).

Multi-sport star Poco took love for track to next level in high school

By Jason Arndt

At Wheatland Center School, the walls are filled with plaques highlighting athletic achievements, including record-setting performances.

Among the athletes recognized, Anthony Poco’s middle school sprint records still stand, so breaking records and continuing success on the track is only fitting for the current Wilmot Union High School senior.

Poco, who also played boys soccer and football as a Panther, was part of three school record relay teams in track and field as junior.

One of his three relay teams, the 1,600-meter, finished second at the WIAA Division 1 state meet to earn a podium appearance.

For Poco’s efforts on the track team, in addition to a seamless transition between three sports, he was named the 2017 Westosha Report Male Athlete of the Year, selected by Report Staff.

Wheatland roots
Before Poco became a Panther, he was a Wheatland Warhawk, where he garnered multiple track honors.

Although he credits a handful of Wheatland coaches for their guidance, Poco said school track coach Linda Sabourin helped him get a running start on the track.

“The one who influenced me the most was definitely Linda Sabourin,” he said. “She was the track coach at Wheatland and she believed in what I could do. She taught me how to use the blocks, which I personally think is one of the best parts about my races.”

Multi-sport athlete
Poco took what he learned at Wheatland to Wilmot, where he was not only a member of the track team, but also varsity volleyball, soccer and football for four years.

While he ran track for all three years, Poco was on the varsity volleyball team as a freshman followed by back-to-back years with the boys soccer team, where he was named Southern Lakes Conference honorable mention as a junior.

The following year, Poco decided to hang up the soccer shoes, but opted to play varsity football when first year coach Keiya Square asked him to join.

“When I decided to not play soccer, Coach Square asked me if I wanted to play,” he said. “I told myself it was my senior year and I didn’t want to have any regrets leaving high school.”

Using his leg, and speed, Poco earned Southern Lakes Conference honorable mention as a kicker where he converted 13 of 16 extra points.

Poco, who took over kicking duties from departing senior Jeff Shoopman, said the transition was more of a mental challenge.

“The hardest part was to focus on the kick and not the people who are running at you,” he said. “They can’t hit you because that’s a penalty, but I never wanted to get a kick blocked.”

Additionally, as a wide receiver, he had nine catches for 123 yards and scored a touchdown.

On track
As a sophomore, Poco and four total teammates qualified for the state meet in two events, the 1,600 and 400 relays.

While Poco and former Wilmot students Matt Cieslak, Anthony Klein and Jayden Jesse finished 17th in the preliminary round of the 400 relay, the 1,600 team reached the podium, placing sixth with a then-school record 3 minutes, 20.43 seconds.

The 1,600 relay team consisted of Jayden Jesse, Zac Schrader and Cieslak.

Last year, however, Poco qualified for three relay events, the 1,600, 400 and 800.

Of the three events, Poco along with Cieslak, Jordan Jesse and Schrader jumped up four places in the 1,600 relay to finish second, resetting the school record at 3:18.37.

Poco said the improvement and achievement is indescribable.

“I don’t think there are words to really describe it, it feels like everything you worked for paid off when it mattered,” he said. “That feeling itself is an amazing feeling. Just being able to compete at state is an amazing experience, but getting on the podium is unexplainable.”

The relay foursome was two spots shy of making a second podium appearance in the 800 relay, where they finished eighth overall, but captured another school record at 1:28.22 in the preliminary round.

Meanwhile, in the 400 relay, Poco, Schrader and current Wilmot senior Robert Brent broke yet another school record with a run of 43 seconds to finish 13th in the preliminaries.

“I credit my relay teammates and myself for the podium leap, our coach told us that they sky was the limit for us as a group and that if we worked hard we could do anything,” Poco recalled. “So I feel as if it was our hard work that helped us achieve that.”

Individually, at the SLC meet, Poco finished second in the 200 dash with a personal record 23.12 and in the long jump with a leap of 20-feet-10 inches.

Only Westosha Central graduate Austin Kurylo did better than Poco in both individual events.

Without Kurylo, who competes at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, Poco hopes to improve in both events his senior season.

“Personally I would like to break our school record in the 200 meter and the long jump,” Poco said. “But I’m just looking to have fun and go out with a bang.”

As he established personal goals, Poco looks to offer more leadership entering his senior season, and hopes to contribute to the future of the Wilmot track program.

“I want to be a team leader and set a good example to the younger guys,” Poco said. “I’d love to bring some young guys to state on a relay so that they can have the experience.”


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