SHIPPENSBURG – He was always a baseball and football guy.
Those team sports brought the athletic intensity out of Marc Anthony Minichello.
Team success was what drove him, because there is no better feeling in the sports world than accomplishing triumph with a group of guys working as one toward the goal of winning.
He was a splendid wide receiver and defensive back on football fields during the fall, then stepped into the batter’s box during the spring and turned into a consistent hitter who could chase down just about anything in center field or scoop up grounders with ease as a third baseman.
He helped his Wyoming Area teammates think big in both sports.
Strange, then, that Minichello made it to the top of the mountain all by himself.
In track and field.
“When I was young,” Minichello said May 26, “I didn’t even know track was a thing to do. I knew the track went around the football field and that was about it.”
Three years after first trying the sport, Minichello stood smiling — soaking in the irony of it all, along with the hot sun — as the very best and the first state gold medalist in Wyoming Area’s history at the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association Track and Field Championships.
How he arrived there took him way off the beaten path.
“The road has been the most windy, tricky, crazy road I’ve even been down,” Minichello said while shaking his head. “I’m glad it paid off.”
It began with pain.
As a sophomore, Minichello reached out to make a tackle in football and suffered a torn labrum in his left (non-throwing) shoulder.
He couldn’t play baseball the following spring.
“He had shoulder surgery,” Wyoming Area track and field coach and athletic director Joe Pizano said. “He couldn’t play ball because he couldn’t swing the bat. We brought him over that year to start throwing the javelin.”
By the end of his junior year, Minichello was throwing it with the best in the nation.
He was ranked among the top five javelin throwers in the country for most of the 2017 season, all the while running back and forth from the track to the baseball field while sharing both sports.
But he wasn’t quite polished during his second season of javelin and was scored for no distance at the District 2 championships last year after being called for three straight violations during his attempts.
He didn’t make it to states in 2017.
That was right after his dad died.
Marc E. Minichello, a 1986 Meyers grad and beloved youth sports coach in West Pittston, suffered a heart attack working out on a treadmill while on a business trip in Florida on Jan. 12, 2017. He was 48 and never made it back home.
Maybe that’s part of the reason why Paula Minichello, Marc Anthony’s mother, shed so many tears after her son threw a javelin 198 feet to win the Class 2A boys state title at Shippensburg University. She was able to cherish the moment of delight for her son, all the while knowing her husband — who had coached Marc Anthony through his younger baseball and football years — couldn’t share in the moment.
Marc E. Minichello never got to see his son’s finest days in javelin.
But he did see Marc Anthony begin to throw.
“He thought track was really the way for me to get into college,” said Minichello, a senior who will be throwing the javelin in the Ivy League for the University of Pennsylvania next season. “He was right. I don’t know if I’d have tried as hard as I did in track and if I’d have gotten where I am now without him. I think he would have a huge smile on his face.”
Driven by his father’s voice, Minichello made his new sport his mission.
He worked tirelessly with Wyoming Area throwing coach Mike Fanti, who is also the school’s assistant head football coach. Minichello began perfecting the craft by making regular trips to the Javelin Factory. He threw over 200 feet three times this season, finished second at the prestigious Penn Relays and won the District 2 Class 3A javelin title.
Then he won the first state track and field championship Wyoming Area has ever known.
“I think being new to track — I’m only in my third season — it’s getting to where I’m starting to fall in love with it,” Minichello said.
Then he laughed.
“To make a (college) career off track and field,” he said, “it’s the most incredible thing.”
Nobody could have foreseen the way all this turned out for Minichello and the Warriors.
There may be other kids coming down the road with this kind of talent and ability, gracing the school’s halls with such class and dignity and filled with potential to bring Wyoming Area similar honor and glory.
But there will never be another Marc Anthony Minichello.
Reach the Sunday Dispatch newsroom at 570-655-1418 or by email at email@example.com.