The University States Sports Academy has presented its 2016 Distinguished Service Award (DSA) to Al Cantello, a world-record javelin thrower who has served more than half a century in coaching at the United States Naval Academy.
A former world-class competitor in the javelin, Cantello once held every national and international record in the event. In 1959, he set a world record in the javelin of 282 feet 3 inches (86.04 meters) and competed for the U.S. Olympic Team the following year in the 1960 Olympic 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 competed while serving in the United States Marine Corps.
A 1955 graduate of La Salle University in Philadelphia, Pa., Cantello was a two-time All-American in the javelin throw. He was enshrined as a charter member of La Salle’s Hall of Athletes in 1961. In 2009, he was inducted into the Penn Relays Wall of Fame for becoming the first three-time winner in the javelin throw at the famed event. In 2012, Cantello was inducted in the inaugural class of the Middle Athletic Conference Hall of Fame.
In addition to his success as an athlete, Cantello has been a legendary coach. He is in his 53rd season at the U.S. Naval Academy and 48th as cross country head coach. Since his arrival at Annapolis more than 50 years ago, the Midshipmen have been one of the most consistent men’s cross country programs, both regionally and nationally.
In his tenure at the helm of the Navy cross country program, Cantello boasts a 244-70-1 career record. Cantello’s all-time head coaching record in cross country, indoor track and outdoor track is 321-82-2, a .796 career winning percentage. Among his victories are 48 “N-Stars,” or gold stars which are given for defeating Army, including 36 as the head coach of the cross country program — more than any other Navy mentor in one sport. In cross country, Cantello has led the Midshipmen to a 36-10-1 cross country mark against Army, prior to which Navy held a 12-19 record against the Army’s Black Knights.
From 1981-88, Cantello held a dual coaching role, guiding Navy’s men’s indoor and outdoor track squads while maintaining his cross country duties. As Navy’s head track coach, Cantello led the Midshipmen to a 67-9-1 dual meet record. During 1986-87, his combined record in cross country, indoor and outdoor track and field was a remarkable 23-1.
During his tenure, Cantello’s teams have beaten the archrival Army 36 times in cross country and 12 times in track and field with him as the head coach (1981-1988). Including his years as an assistant coach for the track and field team (1968-1980, 1989-present), he has accrued 96 wins versus Army.
Cantello led the Midshipmen to seven of the last eight Patriot League Championships from 2008-11 and 2013-15.
As a result of his teams’ success, Cantello has been widely recognized, including being named the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Mid-Atlantic Regional Coach of the Year three times (1984, 1985 and 1992). He has been Patriot League Coach of the Year each of the last three seasons. In 1997, the Naval Academy Alumni Association awarded Cantello the Distinguished Athletic Leadership Award for a coach or faculty member who did the most for the physical development of the Midshipmen in physical education. That same year Cantello also received the inaugural Tom Hamilton Teaching/Coaching Award, as voted by his peers.
Cantello has coached numerous standout runners at Annapolis who went on to compete at NCAA Championship meets and at the Olympics, among other national and international competitions. Cantello was inducted into the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) Hall of Fame in 2013.
Each year as part of its Awards of Sport program, the United States Sports Academy presents its Distinguished Service Award (DSA) to individuals who have made outstanding contributions to national or international sports through instruction, research or service. Those selected for this award must possess an extensive background in sports. This means that the individual must have had significant dealings in either instruction, research or service in sports for more than 10 years.
Based in Daphne, Ala., the United States Sports Academy is an independent, non-profit, regionally accredited, special mission sports university created to serve the nation and world with programs in instruction, research, and service. The role of the Academy is to prepare men and women for careers in the profession of sports. For more information about the Academy, call (251) 626-3303 or visit www.ussa.edu.
By Keith Ayers
Keith Ayers is the Director of Communications at the United States Sports Academy. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.