Spare the pity party for sidelined long-distance runner

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Special to The Dialog

Lottery tickets. The racetrack. The casino. Friendly bets. Name anything that necessitates a whole lot of luck and rest assured that Tommy Zabielski won’t be interested. If the Salesianum School senior had any luck at all, it would arguably be a first.

“I guess I have had some tough breaks,” said Zabielski, “but I don’t really think about that or dwell on it. I just try to keep moving on.”

The recently completed cross-country season ended with Salesianum seizing its fourth consecutive state championship. Among the runners unavailable to help was Zabielski.

Senior Tommy Zabielski didn’t let sports injuries sideline his contribution to the team and school. (The Dialog/DonBlakePhotography.com)

A series of injuries back in August, particularly a stress fracture in his tibia and a strained calf muscle, prevented Zabielski from participating in any meets this fall.

Although a challenge both physically and mentally, the team co-captain unfortunately was already familiar with such annoying terrain. Last year he had to deal with a stress fracture during the spring, and back when he was a freshman, a dislocated kneecap ruined his indoor track season.

Spare Zabielski a pity party.

“A lot of people have to go through injuries,” he said. “I try to focus on the things that have gone right.”

Of which there have been plenty. As a junior, Zabielski captured first place in the state cross-country race at Brandywine Creek Park. A few months later in outdoor track, despite the aforementioned stress fracture, he joined Andrew Wade, Joe Casini and Matt Reyher as state champions in the 4×800-meter run.

And even though he could only watch from the sidelines in this year’s cross-country state finals, Zabielski showed his true colors – gold and blue – when he raved about the first-place performance of senior teammate Matt McKenna.

“We are really happy for him,” he said. “He came in third as a sophomore and then was right behind me (in second) last year. It was great to see him win it.”

Zabielski’s resiliency has impressed those around him.

“He is a super awesome guy who really does so much for the community, and is an amazing runner,” said Sallies coach Mike LoSapio. “He has just had a stretch of bad luck, but is staying positive through it all.  He is such a level-headed young man and really sees the big picture. I’m so proud of him.”

While injuries have derailed some of his running endeavors, it has not sullied Zabielski’s zeal to give back to the community, whether it be delivering food to the hungry or helping out at the Terri Children Center every Tuesday.

Since his sophomore year, Zabielski has been a member of the Jefferson Awards Team that promotes and recognizes service throughout the Sallies community.

The team has won three regional titles and been recognized nationally.

Activities have included establishing a three-on-three basketball tournament and raising more than $5,000 in scholarship money over a three-year period that helps seniors defray tuition for their first semester of college.

“Our school is big on community service and it’s great to have an opportunity to help out,” Zabielski said. “I think we are called to give back as much as we’re able.”

Whether injured or healthy, Zabielski has done just that.

 John Knebels can be reached at jknebs@aol.com.