St. Hubert’s Claire Alminde was among the last student-athletes to be called to the podium to receive her award at the 28th annual Northeast Sports Awards banquet, but she seemed to speak for all the others when she stepped up to the microphone.
“I am 18 years old and I think I can say for the others here, it is exciting to see your name in the newspaper,” the multi-sport star told the crowd of more than 200 honorees, parents and coaches last Wednesday night at Cannstatter’s.
The room was filled as the Northeast Times and the Frankford Northeast Rotary Club joined forces once again to honor a year’s worth of the best high school student-athletes in the Northeast.
Sports editor Ed Morrone had written about each of the athletes during the course of their seasons, and that night he gave the crowd brief but vivid summaries of why they had stood above the rest.
Ed talked about Joe Galasso of Father Judge, who did what no one else had done, bring a state wrestling title to Philadelphia. He called up Tim DiGiorgio, the kid with the golden left arm, who had amassed 4,000 yards throwing the football for Frankford.
The coaches, too, were invited to come forward for their moment in the spotlight. George Todt, who retired as soccer coach at Archbishop Ryan after four decades and a state-record 650 victories, was given a Lifetime Achievement Award. Todt, who has helped countless other coaches get their start, remains the school’s athletic director.
“A team is like a family,” he said. “The most important thing in life is family.”
Another winning coach, Franklin Towne Charter’s girls’ basketball and soccer coach, Brianna O’Donnell, had some words of wisdom to share. ldquo;Success travels in the company of hard work,” she said.
Northeast basketball coach Ira Stern discussed the discipline his team showed by practicing three hours a day, five days a week, to overcome an extreme height disadvantage.
“It’s totally an honor to be a coach,” he said. “We don’t just coach teenagers, we mold lives.”
But it was keynote speaker Phil Martelli who captured the prize for the most inspirational speaker of the night. The head basketball coach at St. Joseph’s University invited the crowd “to unleash the power of thank you” with those who had made a difference in their lives.
“We all owe somebody,” he said.
Martelli went on to say why this message was so important to him. He said he had learned that a man who had been his coach as a youth and a best friend in adult years, Tom Gallagher, was gravely ill and in a coma in a hospital bed.
Martelli went to visit and got as far as the door of Gallagher’s room, but at the last moment found he didn’t have the courage to cross the threshold. Instead, he turned and ran out of the hospital.
Soon after, Gallagher died, and Martelli was asked to speak at his funeral. He said he pledged then that he would never again fail to thank those who had helped him, and would ask others to do so, too.
You could have heard a pin drop when Martelli was finished speaking, and Margaret Kelly of Holy Family University and the Rotary was the first to take his advice. She thanked Martelli for being so candid.
“Your message has been transformative,” she said.
Several people, myself included, nodded in agreement. ••
Northeast Times editor Lillian Swanson can be reached at 215-354-3030 or firstname.lastname@example.org