As a distance runner, Pentucket junior Peter Lopata certainly had a lot to hang his hat on over the last school year.
In cross country, he won all but one of his dual meets, finished fourth in the Division 5 meet and came in an impressive ninth at the Division 2 All-State Meet. During the spring track season, he was a Cape Ann League champion in both the mile and 4x800 relay and, in a real highlight, won the Division 4 mile in a school record 4:18:01.
“I really wanted to break the school mile record (4:19:07, held by Eric McDonald), so I felt pretty good about that,” said Lopata.
And there were plenty of other running high points as well, with medals and memories to go along with them.
Yet, surprisingly perhaps, it was a basketball game last month in Hoops for Hope that may have given him the most satisfaction. Coming off a tiring outdoor track season, he began the summer league with a loud bang, scoring 29 points in an opening loss to Greater Lawrence.
For a guy who was a reserve on the court last year, averaging about five points a game, this was a huge breakout.
“We were missing some guys, so I took more shots than usual, but it was still a shock,” said the 6-foot Lopata. “I was happy with it.”
In fact, despite Lopata’s considerable track accomplishments, he takes as much pride in anything he can accomplish on the hardcourt.
“I probably feel the best, the most proud after having a good basketball game because I don’t feel I’m as talented in basketball,” said Lopata.
Still, he knows where his future lies and he’s not about to shun the training needed to enhance his running career. He began his summer running last week, following a schedule provided by distance coach Todd Ruland.
“I definitely want to run in college, where I’m not sure,” said Lopata.
Wherever he winds up, Ruland anticipates a bright future for Lopata.
“Peter is such an excellent runner with an amazing future ahead of him,” said Ruland. “He is probably the most dominant, versatile runner I have seen from the 400 to the 5K. His split times in the 4x400 are the best on the team ... he ran the 800 once in the spring and came within two seconds of the school record and ... he is an exceptional mile runner.
“The mile showcases his endurance, his ability to pace and strategize and his speed, so this is his best race in my opinion.
“I can’t wait to see what Peter does next year and in the future. Because Peter has not run all three seasons, I think he has a chance to be so much more successful in college than he has been here.”
Prior to a full-time running career, however, Lopata will remain engrossed in basketball and Pentucket head coach Ed Hickey has plans of his own for him.
“He is a terrific shooter and has an instinct for scoring,” said Hickey. “He will be our zone buster and stretch the floor against man-to-man teams. He needs to work on eliminating turnovers and improving defensive pressure and I think he will.
“We’re expecting a really good season from him.”
That’s what Lopata is hoping for, of course, but first he is focusing on cross country with a goal of competing for the CAL and Division 5 state titles and finishing in the top five in the Division 2 All-State Meet.
For now, it’s one sport at a time.
“Because Peter has not run all three seasons, I think he has a chance to be so much more successful in college than he has been here.”
Todd Ruland, Pentucket distance coach