2018 Athletes of the Year: Martinazzi, Dillow receive honors at annual banquet
Even though it was the 13th annual Altoona Mirror Athlete of the Year banquet, nothing was unlucky about how the night’s festivities played out in front of a packed room at The Casino in Lakemont.
It was there that Bishop Carroll’s Alyssa Martinazzi and Chestnut Ridge’s Noah Dillow were named the female and male athlete of the year, respectively.
“There are so many great athletes around here, in this area. Just to hear your name, it is a blessing,” said Dillow, a four-sport star in football, basketball, baseball as well as track and field. “I have to thank God for giving me this opportunity.”
Martinazzi had a baccalaureate ceremony to attend Monday night with fellow attendee Emma Simmons and her family at Bishop Carroll. The group did not arrive until the end of guest speaker Greg Curley’s speech.
“We told (Altoona Mirror managing editor) Neil (Rudel) we couldn’t get there until late, and we felt awkward coming in late, but he said ‘we think you should still come to it'” Alyssa’s dad, Dan Martinazzi, said. “Emma was so excited about coming, and this was her first time coming to it so we decided to come together.”
The individual award winners on the evening included:
n Vlad Hilling, Hollidaysburg, Erin Johnson Award (inspirational athlete)
n Alex Kiepert, Central Cambria, Frank Kiraly Award (golf)
n Phil Swartz, Altoona, Erin Dodson Award (volleyball)
n Jessica Stevens, Altoona, Herb Faris Award (tennis)
n Sydney Reffner, Everett, and Justin McCoy, Chestnut Ridge, Ron Rickens Sportsmanship Award
n Joe Kohler, Tyrone, Angie Gioiosa Award (long-distance running)
n Tina Hollen, Bellwood-Antis/Tyrone, Dean Rossi Leadership Award
Martinazzi, an Athlete of the Week three straight years, was a standout on the Carroll basketball and track and field teams.
“I wondered who it would be because there are so many great athletes in this area,” she said. “When I heard my name, I felt extremely blessed. I have to thank God for keeping me healthy throughout my career, my teammates and my coaches.”
Curley, the coach for the Juniata College men’s basketball team the past 17 years, could not emphasize enough the fact that, even though this group of 80 were being individually honored, there was something more important to take home from the event.
“You guys are awfully blessed to be here,” said the State College High School graduate, who reminisced about playing basketball in the Mid-Alleghenies Conference as a high school athlete. “You guys are used to success. It won’t be that easy in college, but that’s alright. Your (work) habits need to match your dreams.”
Taking advice from one of his players on the last four Juniata teams — Marcus Lee of Bishop Carroll — Curley talked about the kind of message he wanted to convey to the 2018 edition of Mirror Athletes of the Week.
“The great opportunity here for you is that you get to be a part of something bigger than yourself,” he said.
Just like a coach, he broke down the format of the Mirror’s Athlete of the Week format that appears in the Tuesday’s sports section throughout the high school season. He said he likes to see who the athletes are most influenced by during the career.
“You need to say thanks, and not with a text, but write a note,” he said. “That’ll be there in 20 years. That is something they can look at in 20 years, and that is being a part of something bigger than yourself.”
In echoing Curley’s sentiments, Mark Dillow, Noah’s father, who is also the girls basketball coach at Bedford Area High School, wants his son to use the honor for something more than just the applause from the night.
“I have told him that to whom much is given, must is required. You have God-given talents, and you do not want to keep them to yourself,” Mark said of his son, who will play football this fall at California University of Pa. “God is giving you a platform, and you should use that for him. There are kids who run up to him sometimes, and he tries to be a good role model for them.”
Mark Dillow believes Noah should use that attention he receives from youngsters as a stepping stone to a career choice in college.
“He is undecided about a major,” he said, “and we tell him ‘Noah, you should be a teacher where you can use that love of sports and carry that into coaching.’ He is thinking hard about that for secondary education.”
Just from hearing some of the stories that were told Monday night, Dan Martinazzi said attending the event makes you realize how blessed the local athletes in the Mirror’s coverage area truly are.
“I think we sometimes take for granted the opportunities these kids have to play sports and live in this country,” he said. “We know most of these athletes in this room because (Alyssa) has competed against them, and for her to be picked in this group, you just think ‘Wow!'”
Curley pointed out that the amount of quality athletes in the Mirror coverage area isn’t appreciated as much as it should be.
“It’s what has kept me at Juniata for 17 years,” he told the crowd. “I know what it’s like to be from this area. I’ve spent some summers at The Building II (Rec Hall in Altoona). When you look back on your life, you don’t remember everything but you realize you will remember the moments like this.”
Both Dillow and Martinazzi still have chances to make some more memories. Both will compete at the state meet in Shippensburg for track and field this weekend. Dillow’s baseball team is still in the postseason, too.
“(Alyssa) likes this event because you get to see all the kids that she has competed against over the years, kids she has made friends with,” Dan Martinazzi said. “I think that will be her big memory. The friendships, the competition, what a better way to end it than this (night).”
Past Athletes of the Year
2006: Rachel Gehret, Altoona Area
2007: Mary Forr, Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic
2008: Carly Seymour, Central Cambria
2009: Rachel Rea, Bishop Guilfoyle
2010: Janae Dunchack, Northern Cambria
2011: Jess Delic, Penn Cambria
2012: Olivia Stever, Tyrone Area
2013: Maria Snyder, Northern Bedford
2014: Sarah Gomish, Bishop Carroll
2015: Ana Hollen, Bellwood-Antis
2016: Alyssa McGhee, Bishop Guilfoyle
2017: Karson Swogger, Bellwood-Antis
2018: Alyssa Martinazzi, Bishop Carroll
2006: Jeff Minemyer, Bishop Carroll
2007: Brant Clouser, Altoona Area
2008: Jordan Donaldson, Tussey Mountain
2009: Jordan Miller, Central Cambria
2010: Brady Gehret, Altoona Area
2011: Wade Endress, Altoona Area
2012: Steve Franco, Tyrone Area
2013: Matt Barton, Hollidaysburg Area
2014: Blake Over, Northern Bedford
2015: Eli Mencer, Altoona Area;
Sam McCloskey, Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic
2016: Austin Cook, Bedford Area
2017: Alex Hoenstine, Central
2018: Noah Dillow, Chestnut Ridge