Martelli, student-athletes shine at sports banquet

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 lswan­

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