says N-G has best program in Pennsylvania

By John Knebels
Special to The CS&T

PHILADELPHIA – When John Murawski received a text message from a friend, he had no idea what it was about.

“The message said, ‘Did you see it?'” said Murawski. “I was thinking to myself, ‘Did I see what?'”

It turns out Murawski’s friend was referring to the announcement last month that SS. John Neumann and Maria Goretti High School had been chosen as the top high school athletic program in the state of Pennsylvania by Sports Illustrated’s web site,

The news could not have been any better for Murawski, considering the ’96 St. John Neumann High grad is serving in his first year as the school’s president.

Nothing like a little recruiting tool when asked about some of N-G’s qualifications by prospective students.

“It’s great for the entire community,” said Murawski, once the athletic director at Neumann-Goretti. “It’s not only about the sports teams, although it certainly is primarily about them. But when you think about all the dedication of our coaches and staff and student athletes, it’s something that the entire school can be proud of. We’re really thrilled about it.”

Murawski recently had a plaque created to commemorate the special recognition. Sometime in early September the school will assemble to more formally accept the honor.

In the meantime, those behind the scenes have understandably taken great satisfaction about the plaudit. Chief among them is Chip Reitano.

Before resigning his post in June, Reitano had been N-G’s athletic director for the past three years after serving as an assistant for two. This coming season will be his 10th as coach of the girls’ basketball team, one of 15 varsity athletic programs offered to the 900 students that comprise the South Philadelphia school.

“This is as positive as it can get,” said Reitano. “When you think of all the work that went into the athletic department, it makes you sit back and smile when you hear something like this.

“But when it’s all said and done, it’s about the Neumann-Goretti students. They are the ones who ultimately get the job done on the field,” he said.

A 1982 Neumann graduate, Reitano said that in order to be a successful coach, the mentor must always put the students’ best interests ahead of his or her own.

“The question is not about winning, even though everyone obviously strives to win and loves it when they do,” said Reitano. “In the end, you have to ask yourself, ‘How far in life can you help them go?’ Because it’s really about life, not sports.”

Although several N-G programs have enjoyed their own measure of success, it was the accomplishments of the boys’ basketball and baseball teams that helped provide the impetus for Neumann-Goretti to receive the acknowledgement of being Pennsylvania’s best since one of the criteria listed by SI was tournament results for the 2008-09 school year.

Both programs captured Catholic League and city titles. The basketball team advanced to the state quarterfinals and the baseball squad moved even further, to the state semis.

“The other sports have taken a backseat sometimes, but they are a very important part of why we were recognized,” said Reitano. “I know the people at SI who made the decisions did their own sort of research and drew their conclusions on their own, but when you think of how many great schools there are out there, it’s really saying a lot that Neumann-Goretti was chosen to receive this.”

John Knebels can be reached at