Papakojo Danquah never knew he would love going the distance.
In fact, it was the last thing he ever wanted to do until he actually did it.
Danquah, better known as P.K. or Kojo, is a junior at Holy Ghost Prep High School, and he came into the school as a good runner.
He was on the track team at Maternity BVM, and he was fast, but at the time, he was far more of a sprinter.
“I didn’t want to run distance and I definitely didn’t want to run cross country, why would I want to do that?” Danquah said. “I did track my freshman year, and after I ran, I decided to try cross country.”
Believe it or not, he is a distance runner!
Danquah not only ran cross country, he finished third overall in the 2022 PIAA District One Class 2A cross country championship.
Obviously the strong season helped him with his confidence, and that’s rolled into indoor track season, where he’s one of the top runners on the Firebirds.
“I don’t know, something independent about running for yourself to represent your school, I enjoy doing,” said Danquah, who lives in Bustleton. “I love running. It was independent, you’re running for yourself. But you’re doing it with a team. I think that makes it so much more fun. We’re a really close team.
“I didn’t want to do cross country. I never saw myself running more than one lap. They said try cross country. After that, it put me in shape, mentally to go longer distances and it helped, along with my speed. It helps.”
Now he’s settling in and making a name for himself as one of the top runners in the area in the 800-meter race.
The event includes running two complete laps around the track and comes in at about a half-mile. That means it’s not an all-out sprint, but it’s not a long-distance event. It’s taken some time, but thanks to his coaches, Danquah has come up with a perfect strategy for running the race. And his lower times are proof of that.
“I was always a sprinter,” Danquah said. “When I got to Holy Ghost, I was sprinting. Then I did 400 and I did pretty well, so he had me run 800. I’ve done the mile a couple of times, but my event is the 800.
“My coach tells me to sprint where I can, maybe two seconds off as fast as you can. A half notch down, and hold form for the second lap. Spring the whole thing if I’m being honest. I wasn’t good at doing it in a second time. I’ve gotten better because of cross country. My coaches believe in me. They help me.”
Danquah is quick to point out how he’s had so much help along the way. He credits his family, which includes his mom and dad, his older brother Yoofi, who was a star soccer player for the Firebirds and a four-year varsity contributor for the Firebirds. His younger brother, Jojo, is in fourth grade at Maternity BVM. He likes to run, too.
“We all get along really well, we’re close in age and we’re all friends,” Danquah said. “They’re goofy but they’re my friends.
“My mom, she’s like my best friend. My dad, too. I’m always on the phone with my mom when I’m not home. We’re very close. I’m very lucky to have a great family. They’re very supportive.”
That’s not all he has.
He also credits his coaches with all they’ve done to make him love the sport, and his teammates. In fact, his teammates from previous years really helped him get out of his shell and become a leader, both in the school and on the track and cross country teams.
“I think I’ve grown a lot as a person at Ghost,” Danquah said. “I’ve been working, getting serious as a leader. I’m trying to be a better leader, I like it because people look up to you.
“When I was a freshman, I didn’t talk to anyone, always had earbuds in. Nobody knew me, I would go to track and come home. Two seniors, Joe Smith and James Corbett, they were like, ‘You’re really good, why don’t you talk to anyone?’ They started talking to me, and then I started talking to people. It helped me a lot.”
Now Danquah is doing the same to help younger runners.
He’s also starting to look beyond Holy Ghost, including this summer when he’s going on a once-in-a-lifetime trip..
“I do well in school. I really want to go to a good running school, I want to run in college and not only do athletics, but academic performance helps,” said Danquah, who has also visited Ghana, the home of his parents. “If you’re smart, and you have the times in track, you can run in college. My parents always told me to focus on my grades, everything else will follow.
“I like to draw things, cartoons and stuff. I take inspiration from comic books, I love stuff like DC, that’s my favorite. I like to draw crazy things. This summer, I’m going to Spain for a trip where we’ll go to art museums. It’s through Holy Ghost, our teacher is taking us.”
Danquah is happy to represent his school in art, athletics and academics.
“I want to PR in the 800, I want to run a 1:55 or 56 in the 800 and I want to continue to get better,” Danquah said. “And I want to get through everything smoothly, stay up on academics. I love being at Holy Ghost and running for Holy Ghost. It’s where I made so many of my best friends. It’s been great.”