During one of his first attempts at the sport of track and field, Marc Minichello heard a compliment from a competitor.
“He said, ‘Oh my God, wow, that’s great,” Minichello remembers. “That made me feel so good on the inside. That was something that motivated me. I wanted more people to say ‘Oooh and ahhh.’ “
By the time he was finished, Minichello had the whole state of Pennsylvania in awe.
The Wyoming Area senior, who only turned to track and field when a shoulder injury wouldn’t allow him to play baseball, became the first Warriors athlete to win a state championship when he captured the PIAA Class 3A javelin throw, the crowning achievement in a season that made Minichello the Times Leader Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year.
His wow factor was off the charts.
He finished second at the prestigious Penn relays, at the stadium where he’ll be throwing javelin next year. He not only won the District 2 Class 3A championship he and his late father dreamed about, Minichello set a new district record while doing it.
Then he awed the Wyoming Area community by going where no track and field athlete from the school had gone before — to the very top of the state podium.
He believes one wouldn’t have happened without the other.
“I think they all were important,” Minichello said. “They kind of went in chronological order of importance, at the time.”
The Penn Relays came first, as Minichello finished second with a career-best throw of 202-2 in front of a group of guys he’ll be joining next season.
“When I went through the Penn Relays, I was super-excited,” Minichello said. “I took that confidence into the district meet.”
When he got there, Minichello was marvelous.
After three violations cost him a shot at the 2017 district javelin championship — in a field he was favored to win — Minichello came back with a vengeance this year.
He unleashed a throw of 204-1 to earn his first District 2 gold medal, reach a new personal best and set a District 2 record in the process.
“I couldn’t have been happier with that performance,” Minichello said.
That gold medal carried extra weight, Minichello said, because it was one of the goals he and his father set before Marc E. Minichello passed away following a heart attack in 2017.
“I do remember I was thinking about him a lot going into the district meet last year,” said Minichello, 18, who resides with his mother Paula in West Pittston. “One of the goals we’d talked about was to be district champ. And then stuff happened. This year, I was just concentrating on the meet, not really thinking about anything else.
“I knew he was going to be looking down, watching over me.”
Somewhere, Marc E. Minichello had to be smiling — along with the rest of the Wyoming Area School District.
His son snapped off a throw of 198 feet on his first attempt in a PIAA championship field, and it took Marc Anthony Minichello to the top of the medal stand.
At long last, Wyoming Area had a state champion.
“That was really special,” Minichello said, “because it was the first in track and field in Wyoming Area school history.”
That Minichello wound up as Wyoming Area’s pioneer to a PIAA gold medal was a little shocking — especially to him — considering he got such a late start in track and field.
A standout baseball and football player who was coached by his dad in both sports during his formative years, Minichello only began throwing the javelin as a high school sophomore after shoulder surgery for an injury suffered during football season prevented him from swinging a baseball bat.
Yet, he became the perfect portrait of the school’s first state golden boy after perfecting his craft at the javelin factory and securing a college ride to Penn.
“I think it was because of a lot of things,” said Wyoming Area track and field coach Joe Pizzano, who is also the school’s athletic director. “After everything he has gone through the past three years — getting injured in football, losing his dad — and working to take this thing to the next level.
“He is a great kid.”
And one who had a great time through a tough time on his way to the top of the mountain.
“I think I exceeded every high school goal I could have set for myself,” Minichello said. “Once I won the state gold, it all kind of made sense.
“And I’m having a lot of fun along the way.”
Reach Paul Sokoloski at 570-991-6392 or on Twitter @TLPaulSokoloski