St. Mary’s Dominican High School assistant principal Dennis Panepinto is recipient of the 2022 Louisiana Track and Field Coaches Association (LTFCA) Lifetime Achievement Award. The honoree is also Dominican’s director of COVID-19: Compliance and Logistics.
Introducing Panepinto at the awards ceremony, Drew Haro, the head cross country coach and assistant track coach at Brother Martin High School in New Orleans, said he knows the honoree not only as a coaching colleague but as a mentor and friend. “I first met Dennis Panepinto, or Coach P, as he’s known to many, in 1999 when I was a 9th-grader at Brother Martin. It was then that I joined his cross country team along with well over 100 other members. You might think you’d get lost in a team that size, but I can tell you that Coach P had the best way of making every runner on his team feel like he was the best runner out there,” he said. “Maybe this was the key to his teams winning 11 city championships, seven district championships, four state championships, and finishing state runner-up seven times all in 5A competition. or maybe the key was the simple phrase that he told his runners before leaving them at the start line prior to the start of each race, ‘Run fast’.”
When Panepinto took over Brother Martin’s cross country program in 1990, they finished in the top two at the state cross country meet 11 out of 17 times. Additionally, his teams never finished out of the top five. This top five streak is held today by Brother Martin as the team finished 4th this past season extending the streak to 33 years in a row. In 1995, Dennis took over the track program at Brother Martin and as head track coach, his teams won two district championships and four region championships qualifying numerous athletes to the state championship each year.
“For a coaching career that began as early as his 7th-grade year when he assisted his brother-in-law, Dennis has always maintained his connection to cross country and track and field,” noted Haro. “He even found time to volunteer at Brother Martin while he was still a student at Southeastern Louisiana University. And while his coaching stops have included jobs at Jesuit High School, Brother Martin High School, and most recently Dominican High School, Coach P’s contributions to our sports also extends to his meet management experience.”
Since 2007 when Panepinto started his own timing company, Crescent City Timing, he has either timed, officiated, or directed cross country and track meets every year in some fashion including Amateur Athletic Union (AAU), Louisiana High School Athletic Association (LHSAA), National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), and USA Track & Field (USATF) meets. Currently, he serves as an assistant to the meet director at the Louisiana Governor’s Games as well as the LHSAA state cross country meet, and head referee at the LHSAA state track and field meet. This past cross country season, when several coaches in the New Orleans area were challenged to find additional competitions for some of their younger runners, Panepinto was willing to step up and host meets himself on short notice just to give them chance to race.
“He’s always had the best interest of the kids at heart,” Haro said. “And while all of these achievements and contributions are noteworthy and important, I’d argue that his most significant impact on the sports of cross country and track and field are in the lives of others he’s either worked with or coached who themselves have taken up the torch for coaching.”
LTFCA is an organization made up of professional coaches from the college, high school, junior high school, and club ranks dedicated to the advancement of the sports of track and field and cross country. It promotes the opportunity for participation for all athletes and will nurture the growth of the sports. LTFCA recognizes the achievements of its member coaches with an awards presentation held annually at the LTFCA clinic. The LTFCA also recognizes the achievements of the student athletes through its All State programs in Cross Country and Outdoor Track & Field. A “Lifetime Achievement Award” is also presented annually to deserving individuals during a luncheon held at the annual clinic.