Lou Corgliano of Hammonton

Lou Corgliano , middle of Hammonton lead the packt in cross country meet at Egg Harbor Township High School Tuesday, Sept 17, 2013.

Coach Dave Majofsky of the Hammonton High School cross country team refers to what happened in the summer of 2011 as Christmas in August.

That month, Lou Corgliano and a couple of other talented runners appeared on the cross country trails for the Blue Devils.

Corgliano only came out for the team because his friend and fellow runner Kyle Copestick urged him to do so.

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"He kept me begging to me come out for the team," Corgliano said. "I was like 'eh.' But then I thought why not? I'll see how it is."

Corgliano, 18, has developed into one of the state's top runners. The senior won the Atlantic County and Cape-Atlantic League championships and qualified for the Meet of Champions last fall. He seems poised for another a standout year as the cross country season begins in earnest with the Cherokee Challenge on Saturday.

"I'll just sit back sometimes," Corgliano said, "and wonder what I would be doing if I didn't run."

Hammonton has never been known as a cross-country power. The town and the school are famous for football.

That's the sport Corgliano tried out for as a freshman.

"The football program is so strong I figured I give that sport a shot," he said. "Maybe I could win a state title. I did that my freshman year. It was fun being with my friends, but I wasn't as good as the other kids."

But he had always been fast. He almost always led the mile run in gym class at Hammonton Middle School.

"I wanted to get it done with, so I could relax the rest of the gym period," he said. "I'd run it as fast as I could."

It didn't take Corgliano long to impress the Hammonton coaches.

The first practice he ran five miles and kept up with the Blue Devils top returning miler.

After a few practices, then head coach Nick DeSantis and Majofsky pulled aside Corgliano's father, Louis, and told him his son had the talent to be a top runner.

"Nick and I looked at each other and said we have something pretty good going on here," Majofsky said. "He (Corgliano) just started blossoming. He took over the top spot on our team at his first meet and he's never relinquished it."

Corgliano showed his talent as a sophomore in first major meet. He led the sophomore class for the first 1.5 miles before fading and finishing sixth.

"I went out in a full-out sprint because I had no idea how to run a race," he said. "But the whole time I was in the lead people were saying, 'Hammonton's in the lead. I haven't seen a Hammonton runner compete for any title in forever.' "

Corgliano soon became devoted to cross country and the turning point fittingly came on the state's most historic and toughest course - Holmdel Park. In October 2011, Corgliano finished second in the boys Varsity C race at the Shore Coaches Invitational in 16 minutes, 55 seconds. That race and the fact that he broke 17 minute showed he had the talent to compete with the state's best runners.

"That was a breakthrough race," Corgliano said.

Corgliano says he's entering this season in the best shape of his life. He hopes to compete for South Jersey and state Group III titles and lead the Blue Devils to the Cape-Atlantic League American Conference title and the state group championship meet.

But none of his past or future success would have been possible if not for Copestick. It's almost a daily topic of discussion between the two.

"He's always making jokes that he's the best recruiter in the nation," Corgliano said.

Meanwhile, Majofsky wonders how many potential runners are out there who, unlike Corgliano, did not have a friend pester them into joining the cross country team.

"There might not be kids at his level," the coach said, "but I'm sure there are dozens of kids across the state who have talent. It's just a matter of getting them to come out. He (Corgliano) and a couple of other (Hammonton) runners literally came out of nowhere."

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