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Albert Anthony  Cantello, Sr.

Albert Anthony Cantello, Sr.

Jun 9, 1931 - Jan 17, 2024

Albert Anthony Cantello, Sr. - Obituary


lbert Anthony Cantello Sr. (Al), a legendary cross country and track & field coach whose tenure at the Naval Academy spanned 55 years, passed away on Jan. 17, surrounded by his daughters. Cantello was born on June 9, 1931, in Norristown, Pa. to Italian immigrants Michaelangelo Cantello and Cesarina Gaspari Cantello. Al was the third of five children. Al's journey unfolded as an outstanding swimmer and diver during his youth. His true athletic calling was revealed through a chance encounter with javelin throwing in high school that led to a remarkable career on the Norristown High School Track and Field Team. Upon high school graduation, Norristown friend and decorated Olympic Swimmer, Joe Verduer, recognized Cantello’s collegiate potential. With his encouragement, Al left his Norristown factory job and pursued higher education at La Salle University. Cantello was a standout member of the La Salle track & field team from 1951-55, where he was a two-time All-American in the javelin. He was enshrined in La Salle's Hall of Athletes as a charter member, as well as the Middle Atlantic Conference Hall of Fame and Penn Relays Wall of Fame for his individual success. Upon his graduation from La Salle, Al joined the Marine Corps, where he served for 10 years. It was here that his life continued to thrive as his athleticism took him to countless meets around the world competing in continents he only dreamed about. A world-class competitor in the javelin throw, Cantello once held every national and international record in the event. In 1959, he set a world record in the javelin (282 feet 3 inches) and the following year he competed with the U.S. Olympic Team at the 1960 Games in Rome. In 1964, Sport magazine named Cantello to its all-time track and field team and voted him the world's greatest competitor in the javelin. Cantello will go down in javelin history for having one of the most unique throwing styles in the history of the sport. His versatility as an agile, all-around athlete became evident as he transitioned his diving and gymnastics talents into the nimble success behind his distinctive throwing style. As a smaller-sized thrower, standing at 5' 8”, Al would "run up" to the throw and catapult his entire body into the air as the javelin took flight, generating heightened momentum for his instrument. It was also during this period of competition that he was introduced and later married his wife Doris Jacqueline Brownlee (Jackie) in an intimate ceremony at Quantico, Virginia, 1960. They would remain together, raising three kids, until her death in 2014. Cantello took a job at Methacton High School in his hometown of Norristown, where he applied his creative wordsmith talent and competitive spirit as both an English teacher and track & field coach. Cantello’s life continued with possibility as he later accepted a coaching position at the Naval Academy. This marked the beginning of his coaching legacy. Cantello, who retired from coaching on August 30, 2018, served as Navy’s head cross country coach for 50 years. During his time working with Midshipmen athletes, Cantello collected a combined 49 N-Star victories over Army as the head coach of cross country and track & field programs. "Coach Cantello has influenced so many lives throughout his career, it is impossible to comprehend his influence on so many people," said Naval Academy Director of Athletics Chet Gladchuk. "As an educator, coach, inspirational leader and friend, the legacy he leaves behind is immeasurable. Those privileged to have benefited from his insights, wisdom, and humor truly know how extraordinary he was as a husband, father and coach. Everybody has an Al Cantello story and those stories will be a cherished memory forever." A legend in the field of cross country and track & field, Cantello took over the reins of the Navy men's cross country program from Jim Gehrdes in 1968. Only the fourth head coach in the storied 95 years of Navy men's cross country, Cantello almost immediately found success with the Mids and led the team to a shared 1972 Heptagonal Championship and a berth in the NCAA Championship meet. Competing at the Heptagonal Championships through 2002, Cantello and the Mids earned outright titles in 1974, 1992 and 1996. Overall, Navy finished in the top three on 21 occasions, including every year from 1978 through 1986 under Cantello's leadership. After joining the Patriot League in 2003, Cantello and the Mids asserted their dominance on their new conference mates with four second-place finishes over the first-five years before running off eight Patriot League Championships in nine years from 2008 through 2016. The program's success at the conference level carried over to the national scene with 12 total appearances at the NCAA Championships. Following the program's first NCAA appearance in 1972, the Mids competed at the 1974, 1975, 1976, 1984, 1985, 1988, 1989, 1992, 1997, 2016 and 2017 championships. The 1985 team recorded the highest finish for a Midshipmen squad, as they placed seventh overall in the nation. Aside from Navy's postseason accolades, Cantello made sure the Mids were nearly always in line to check the Army-Navy Star box. Victorious at a 76.5 percent clip, Cantello led the Mids to 37 wins over the Black Knights in his 50 years in charge. The program's most successful run came between 1973 and 1986 when the team won 13 straight head-to-head contests versus its service academy rival. Navy runners found a host of success with Cantello's guidance as 10 student-athletes earned All-America status in cross country and/or distance track events. Four of those Mids were multi-time All-Americans: Ronnie Harris (1985 – XC, 1987 – 3K and 5K); Greg Keller (1992 – Mile & Steeplechase, 1992 – XC, 1993- Mile & Steeplechase); Jon Clemens (1997 – Indoor 5K, 1997 – Outdoor 3K & Steeplechase) and John Mentzer (1997 – Indoor 5K, 1997 – Outdoor 10K, 1998 – Outdoor 10). Additionally, Harris (1988, 1992, 1996) and Mentzer (2008) were two of the six Midshipmen to have competed at the United States Olympic Track & Field Trials under the direction of Cantello. James Dare (1968, 1972), Mark Newman (1996, 2000, 2004), Aaron Lanzel (2004) and Erik Schmidt (2004) make up the complete list of Cantello's Midshipmen distance athletes to have competed for the right to wear the Red, White and Blue in Olympic competition. Dare qualified for Team USA as an alternate in 1972, while Harris qualified for the team in 1996. At the Patriot League level, three Midshipmen won the individual league championship a total of five times with Andrew Hanko finishing first in 2009 and 2010 and Lucas Stalnaker achieving the feat in 2015 and 2016. Steve Schroeder won the title in 2014. A valued member of the track & field program, Cantello was an assistant coach with the Mids from 1968 through 1980 before taking over as head coach from 1981 to 1988. Beginning with the 1989 season, he moved back to an assistant coaching role. As the head coach of the Mids' track and field team, Cantello collected 12 N-Star victories over Army. Cumulatively, he won 49 N-Star wins over cross country, indoor track & field, and outdoor track & field. Adding in 51 victories as an assistant coach, Cantello reached the 100-Star milestone with the men's 102-101 win at West Point on April 7, 2018. As a result of his teams' success, Cantello was recognized as the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional Cross Country Coach of the Year four times (1984, 1985, 1992, 2016), NCAA Mid-Atlantic Track & Field Assistant Coach of the Year in 2010 and Patriot League Coach of the Year eight times (2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016). In December of 2013, he was inducted into the USTFCCCA Coaches Hall of Fame. Residing in Annapolis from 1963 until his passing, Cantello leaves behind a rich tapestry of memories. Preceded in death by his parents, siblings, son Albert Anthony Cantello Jr., and his wife Jackie, Al's legacy lives on through the love he shared with his family and for his job. Let us remember the way Al illuminated a room with his quick wit, his passion for coaching, his commitment to the USNA track and cross country program, his undying passion for La Salle University, his fierce competitive spirit, and his profound love for his family. Albert Cantello Sr. is survived by his daughters, Karla McMahon (Michael McMahon) and Karen O’Kane (Gerard O’Kane), daughter-in-law Nancy Cantello, and his grandchildren: Charles Cantello, Samuel Cantello, Kellen McMahon, Koby McMahon, Kylie McMahon, Brendan O’Kane, and Audrey O’Kane. A visitation to celebrate Albert Cantello Sr.'s life will be held on Wednesday, January 31, 2024, from 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm at Kalas Funeral Home & Crematory, 2973 Solomons Island Road, Edgewater, MD, followed by a Mass of the Resurrection at St. John Neumann Catholic Church, 620 N. Bestgate Road, Annapolis, MD on Thursday, February 1, 2024, at 10:30 am. There will be a reception following the funeral in the Vice Admiral Lawrence N* Room at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to The Al Cantello Sr. ‘55 Memorial Scholarship Fund at La Salle University, Philadelphia, PA. Please use this link to make a gift with a credit card and include Al Cantello Sr. ‘55 Memorial Scholarship Fund in the comment line. Checks can also be made payable to La Salle University and mailed to La Salle University, 1900 W. Olney Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19141, Attn: Development Office. On the memo line, include that the gift is for the Al Cantello Sr. ‘55 Memorial Scholarship Fund. Online condolences may be left for the family using the Memories link on the left side of this page.