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John Nepolitan Feature 2014 - DyeStat

Published by
DyeStat   on Jul 11 2014, 10:25 PM

New assignment for John Nepolitan in Maui

 

By Doug Binder, DyeStat Editor

 

John Nepolitan surprised more than a few people at Don Bosco Prep in Ramsey, N.J. when he announced that he was leaving his teaching job there this spring.

 

And his departure will surely leave a gaping hole in DyeStat’s photographic coverage of high school cross country and track and field – in New Jersey, at Van Cortlandt Park, at The Armory, or the many locations around the world where he provided images over the past 7-8 years.

 

John NepolitanBut to almost anyone who heard it from Nepo first-hand, the plan to buy a one-way plane ticket to Maui sounds too good to argue with.

 

“It sounds like a mid-life crisis, but it’s not,” Nepolitan said. “It’s just a change. I’ve never lived in a warm climate before. Am I going to say it’s beautiful (in Maui)? Great. But will I miss the change of seasons and miss certain things? I might.”

 

If it seemed like Nepolitan’s photos were always part of DyeStat that’s because they became a reliable treasure trove for the site. That was true all year round but particularly in the winter months when he made weekly visits to The Armory in Washington Heights in Manhattan.

 

Nepolitan transitioned from coaching at Don Bosco to taking photos at meets during the 2005-06 school year. The first event he shot for DyeStat was the U.S. Cross Country Championships at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, in 2006.

 

“I was interested in photography and wanted to invest in a decent camera body and lens,” Nepolitan said. “That U.S. Championships at Van Cortlandt, I offered to go and shoot for John (Dye). I think he liked what I did and that I got him the photos quickly. He came back and said ‘Hey, we need someone to go to the NSIC (indoor) meet and would I mind doing that.”

 

And suddenly, even though Dye and his wife Donna continued to take thousands of photos for DyeStat, Nepolitan soon became something of a chief photographer. And over the ensuing years he became a fixture at meets along with top track photographers Victah Sailer and Kirby Lee.

 

“I came in as a complete novice,” Nepolitan said “I don't put myself with Kirby or Victah. They're in a different world. Every now and then I take a photo where I think ‘That's a Victah (quality) photo.’ There's a bond among photographers. They become friends and you see them often. So yeah, I’ll miss that.”

 

Nepolitan traveled the world – usually on his own dime – to shoot World Championships, World XC Championships, World Juniors, etc. And he’s not closing any doors with his photography.

 

SOME OF JOHN NEPOLITAN'S FAVORITE DYESTAT PHOTOS

 

But in moving to Maui he is seeking a new chapter and another re-invention. It won’t be his first. And it might not be his last, either.

 

LuckyNepolitan worked for UCS, a company that makes track and field equipment, for eight years. He lived in Pearl River, N.Y., just three miles from the factory. There was a plan in place to open a new distribution center in Europe, a plan that involved Nepolitan moving there. But the company changed its mind.

 

And Nepolitan, on the eve of the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, decided to make a personal change as well. He applied for a teaching and coaching job at Don Bosco Prep in Northern New Jersey and got the job.

 

The school was near his father’s home, which gave him a connection to the area, and it gave him a natural outlet to work with and teach kids, which he loves.

 

He coached cross country at the school for about eight years and has been a social studies teacher for 18.

 

In February, Nepolitan’s father passed away. Without any other family in the area, and a diminished tolerance for another long, cold winter, the long-discussed plan for Maui moved to the forefront.

 

“There is a woman I used to work with, and whenever I'd go somewhere for DyeStat we’d talk about it and she'd say ‘You're going to go somewhere some time and not come back.’ We joked about it. I used to talk about the places I liked. So it’s been in my mind for a long time to pack up and go and try to do something new. I have re-invented myself a few times already.”

 

Ed Note: It’s with a hearty farewell and a raised-glass toast that I wish John all the best in his new adventure. I have a sneaking suspicion that Nepo will at some time or another be willing to go shoot a meet, or a race, for DyeStat.

 

So until then … see you later, John!

 

In the meantime, we’ll enjoy some of your finest work behind the lens.

 

I couldn’t resist asking John about some of his favorite moments shooting photos of elite high school track athletes over the past eight years.

 

Here is what he had to say:

 

“One of the (highlights) was definitely was the triple that (Lukas) Verzbicas pulled off at New Balance Nationals (Indoor). The way he would roll out and roll out. And then it comes down to the mile on the last day and surely this kid can’t win that too, and then he does.”

 

Lukas Verzbicas

 

“One thing at The Armory that I’ll never forget is Colin McCullough throwing the weight at one of the national meets. As he releases, the weight goes up on this incredible arc and you can see people in the upper deck beyond the sector start scurrying. The thing came down like straight down. It broke the national record and just missed the balcony by a few inches. But the look of panic on those peoples’ faces is something I’ll always remember.”

 

“Whenever (Edward) Cheserek took to the track everyone stopped and took notice.”

 

“One of the more enjoyable things at The Armory was when you’d see kids like Curtis Beach, someone that you’d spent time with at an Arcadia or nationals, and then he rolls into The Armory in his Duke uniform for the Millrose Games. You’re seeing them at a different level, and they notice you. It feels like in some small way you made an impact on them.”

 

“Or at the World Youth Championships in France, some of these young kids are in the mixed zone and people are yelling at them in another language and they see someone they know from The Armory, it’s like you represent a little slice of home for them. Those are some of the big thrill moments.”

 

“I enjoyed shooting (Fayetteville-Manlius) at NXN, all those great teams where they dominated. I remember one time I had to call John (Dye) with flash results from a meet in New York and they had just beat Saratoga Springs, who was No. 2 in the nation at the time. I was on the phone with John, saying ‘F-M shut them out!’ And John is saying, ‘Oh, they beat them pretty bad?’ And I had to say ‘No, you don’t understand. They shut them out with 15 points!’”

 

F-M girls cross country

 

“I enjoyed seeing people at the World Championships in Moscow that I had shot in high school. You felt in some tiny way you had an impact on helping them get to that next level.”

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