Eli Ruiz | Democrat
Tri-Valley’s Mareena DiMilia is surrounded by her many track and field medals at her signing to attend Sacred Heart University on a partial athletic and academic scholarship
DiMilia takes it to Heart
Story by Eli Ruiz
GRAHAMSVILLE May 21, 2013 In the 30-plus years that husband and wife coaches Joe and Missy Iatauro have spent cultivating the Tri- Valley track and field program into the most celebrated in the area, they’ve seen countless athletes off to various colleges and universities.
On Thursday, Tri-Valley senior Mareena DiMilia joined those ranks, signing a letter of intent to compete at Division 1 Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut on a partial athletic and academic scholarship. She is the 12th Tri-Valley track and field athlete during the Iatauro years to sign a Division 1 letter of intent.
DiMilia’s story starts in the seventh grade when coach I as his athletes call him noticed the spunky 12-year old zipping around the Tri-Valley hallways and in physical education class. “It was the speed that we noticed first,” offers Joe Iatauro. “Mrs. I and I spotted her and we said to each other, ‘we really gotta get that kid.’”
Recalls DiMilia’s father Peter, “Mareena was always playing with her brother and four male cousins as a child. They would knock her off the bike all the time, but Mareena would just get right back up. She’s a tough one.”
After some coaxing from coach and Mrs. I, Mareena decided to join the varsity track and field team. “We got her to come out and we immediately got to having her harness the speed thing, explained coach I. “She went from doing some sprints to all kinds of events throws, jumps and then hurdles.”
Mareena has been an integral member of the squad ever since, and was described by coach I as “an MVP” at Thursday’s signing ceremony.
Starting as just an athlete with a lot of raw athletic ability, speed, agility and most importantly, boundless potential, DiMilia developed into not just a state qualifier, but also a national qualifier, as well as a league and section champ.
A state qualifier in hurdling events last year, Mareena has qualified in previous years in shot put, pentathlon and more. “She has pretty much covered all the bases over her years,” says coach I.
Covered all the bases indeed, as Mareena’s list of track events reads like this: 100 hurdles, 4x1 relay, 4x2 relay, long jump, pole vault, shot put, javelin, discus, weight throw and the hammer.
“No matter what it is; ping-pong, anything she tries, when she puts her mind to it she just gets it done,” says her father, Peter.
As of late, though, DiMilia is concentrating and excelling in her throwing events. In fact, last summer Mareena was attending a clinic at Tri-Valley school that was put on by former Tri-Valley and Division II Ashland University star thrower Ryan Loughney. “She picked up a hammer and threw it 140 feet, which qualifies nationally, says coach I.
“Sports are secondary, though,” says Mareena, who not only ranks near the very top of her class, but also serves as Vice President of the Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA), Vice President of the National Honor Society and President of the Varsity Athletic Club.
“It all starts with the parents,” affirms coach I. “It’s all about great parents who’ve nurtured her and supported her every endeavor.”
Countered Peter DiMilia, “You can have the very best athlete, but without great coaching it means nothing.”
After making visits to schools like St. John Fisher, Ashland University and Sacred Heart, Mareena and her parents decided on Sacred Heart University. DiMilia will not only be throwing weights and hammers for the Pioneers’ track team, but will also be pursuing a degree in nursing.
“I’m truly looking forward to the experience,” offered Di Milia. “Having lived in Sullivan County all my life has really limited the level of competition for me. I think that attending and throwing at a Division I school and competing against the very best from all over the country will make me a better, more well-rounded athlete. I think I’ll get a chance to see how good I really am. It’s so exciting.”
An emotional Peter DiMilla said, “I’m so proud of her. She just keeps on making me and her mother so proud. Academically first, and then athletically she gives her all to everything in life. She’s always trying to get better and improve herself.
As a dual-sport athlete you’ll find that Mareena will have either a game or basketball practice, and as soon as that’s over, she’s out doing her workouts for track. She’s just very dedicated with an amazing work ethic.”
As far as her legendary high-school coaches, Mareena says, “Coach and Mrs. I are the very best. They aren’t just phenomenal coaches, but they’ve been like a second set of parents to me. They not only nurtured and helped me develop athletically, they also cared deeply about my personal life. They pushed me to be the very best I could be and the lessons they’ve taught me I’ll carry for life.”