Williamsport hurdler Wes Cuozzo was in the middle of an interview after winning the 300 hurdles at the Lock Haven University Bald Eagle Invitational in late April when Shikellamy's Ryan Wary walked nearby, unaware of the conversation, and shared a quick smirk after almost mistakenly interfering.
Cuozzo returned a quick glance and smile before he continued talking.
It was an unique look at the Williamsport sophomore that can evidently be as kind off the track as he is intense on it.
Williamsport’s Wes Cuozzo hopes to improve on his hurdles efforts Saturday at the PHAC?meet at Shikellamy.
Cuozzo defeated Wary in the 300-meter hurdles on that April night by over a second and the two friends who became close during the PIAA Championships a year ago will renew acquaintances this weekend at the PHAC Championships on Wary's home track at Shikellamy.
Cuozzo will be attempting to become the third consecutive Williamsport runner to win the 300 hurdles after his mentor, Jamal Devine, won in back-to-back seasons.
Devine helped push Cuozzo during his freshman season and it was during a race at the Bloomsburg Invitational last year, a week prior to the postseason, where Cuozzo stayed within striking distance of Devine and realized he had the potential to one day be one of the district's best.
"He was a big help and he pushed me through," said Cuozzo, who placed second in the race less than a second behind. "He taught me about my trail leg and my lead leg and he was a big help in getting me where I am today."
Today Cuozzo is one of the best hurdlers in the PHAC and District 4. He proved that back on that April night in Lock Haven when he ran a sub-40 in the 300 hurdles and reached the state qualifying standard of 39.80 with room to spare. He finished in 39.61 and his quick rise has been a surprise.
"I thought by my senior year I would get 39 and I got it my sophomore year," said Cuozzo. "I had a lot to work up to Jamal and now I ran faster than his time and I just have to keep working harder and maybe get down to the 38s."
Cuozzo finished fifth in the 300 hurdles at last year's PHAC Coaches Invitational, which is now officially a conference championship, behind Devine, Southern's Matt Moore, Shikellamy's Brett Yeomans and Lewisburg's Brandon Smith.
Moore and Smith return this season and with Selinsgrove's Mike Ede, Devine's record of 39.74, set last year, could be in danger.
Many of the same competitors will be chasing the finish line in the 110-high hurdles, but Cuozzo understands his chances at a league championship are better in the longer of the two races.
Like Devine a year ago, Cuozzo isn't yet blessed with the height of many successful hurdlers. Being height-challenged makes it more difficult for Cuozzo's trail leg to navigate the taller hurdles in the 110s, but the lower hurdles in the 300 race seem to fit him fine.
Williamsport coach Sam Belle calls his rising sophomore a natural sprinter and combined with a relentless attitude and endurance, Cuozzo is a tough competitor to leave behind in the 300 hurdles.
The sophomore took the advice of his coaches this offseason and ran cross country in the fall and indoor track during the winter. The extra work allowed Cuozzo to come into the spring season not far off of where he ended last year at the District 4 Class AAA meet when he ran 40.59 and finished second to Devine.
Last year's late-season success made a believer out of Cuozzo and now track and field is an integral part of his life.
"It's all I want to do now and that is what is going to take me places," he said.