Andover Golden Warriors Boys Track and Field '08

Kung fu molds Costello on and off the track

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Thursday, April, 03 By David Willis
Staff writer

Santi Costello's journey to becoming a track standout began unexpectedly.

"When I was 4 years old I got beaten up," he said. "My dad said, 'That's not going to happen again. You're going to learn how to defend yourself.'"

Days later, Costello's father signed him up for kung fu lessons. Little did he know it would end up shaping his son's life.
"It's because of my martial arts training I have been able to achieve my goals," the Andover High senior said. "It helps me as an athlete, but it is as much physiological as it is physical."

Costello spends at least an hour a day practicing basic kung fu at home and goes to workouts at his studio at least three times a week. He declined to say what his current level is but said he has continued to progress since earning his black belt at age 10.

"Kung fu is all about self-defense," he said. "Karate is flashy. People don't really grasp the concepts. People think it's a way to hurt people. We are taught never to strike first. It's not about kicking someone's butt.

"It's a lot of punching and kicking and blocking. There is also a lot of stretching."

That training has helped Costello in a big way on the track. Possessing a 34-inch vertical leap, he has become most well known for his jumping.

"He's got the best vertical leap I have ever seen," coach Peter Comeau said. "He was born with an ability to jump, and he just has spring in his legs."

Costello led area with a 21-7 in the long jump last spring while battling a leg injury. He then followed it up this winter by taking first at the Merrimack Valley Conference meet with a 20-7<1/2>. But he has no interest in being just a jumper.

"I can't imagine sticking to just one event," Costello said. "I want to do a little running then a little jumping. I'll do whatever they need from me."

He showed his versatility in the winter by taking eighth in the state pentathlon | which consists of the 55-meter hurdles, 1,000, high jump, long jump and shot put. He plans to sprint and do hurdles in addition to his jumping this season.

Costello also has plenty of interests outside of sports. He volunteers at the Boys and Girls Club, where he also plays basketball (he could dunk if he could hold onto the ball). He also helps out the Mass Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and works as a youth counselor in Andover.

"He has a great personality," said Comeau. "He is just all over the community. He's a great leader. Now if he can just stay healthy he could have one of the best senior seasons we have seen in a while."

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