He's been the men's head XC coach for the past 50 years, coaching for a total of 55 years. Wow.
From a friend's facebook post:
Men’s Cross Country Head Coach Al Cantello Elects to Retire After 55 Years at Navy
Cantello has coached at the Naval Academy since 1963; last 50 as men’s cross country head coach
ANNAPOLIS, Md. – After a prosperous 55-year run at the Naval Academy, including the last 50 as the head coach of the men’s cross country team, Al Cantello has announced that he will retire effective August 30. During his time working with Midshipmen athletes, Cantello collected 49 N-Star victories over Army as the head coach of cross country and track & field programs.
“For the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf there is the pack.” – Rudyard Kipling
“Since arriving at Annapolis in the summer of 1963, I have seen many swan songs. Some end well and some don’t. Mine will end well. Retiring under my own power, happy about my successor and satisfied with my career,” remarked Cantello. “The Naval Academy’s men’s cross country program is storied and deep thanks to the sacrifices of generations of midshipmen I was honored to coach.”
"Coach Cantello has touched so many lives within the Navy family, it is impossible to comprehend his influence,” said Navy Director of Athletics Chet Gladchuk. “As an educator, coach, inspirational leader, and friend for decades, the legacy he leaves behind is immeasurable. Those privileged to have benefited from his insights, wisdom, and humor truly know he is extraordinary, and those who competed intercollegiately under his tutelage were always motivated to run for Navy and run for Al. Al's stories are legendary, and cherished memories of Coach will prevail forever within the annals of Navy Sports history."
A legend in the field of cross country and track & field, Cantello took over the reins of the Navy men’s cross country program from Jim Gehrdes in 1968. Only the fourth coach in the storied 95 years of Navy men’s cross country, Cantello almost immediately found success with the Mids and led the team to a shared 1972 Heptagonal Championship and a berth in the NCAA Championship meet. Competing at the Heptagonal Championships through 2002, Cantello and the Mids earned outright titles in 1974, 1992 and 1996. Overall, Navy finished in the top-three on 21 occasions, including every year from 1978 through 1986 under Cantello’s leadership.
After joining the Patriot League in 2003, Cantello and the Mids asserted their dominance on their new conference mates with four second place finishes over the first five years before running off eight Patriot League Championships in nine years from 2008 through 2016.
The program’s success at the conference level carried over to the national scene with 12 total appearances at the NCAA Championships. Following the program’s first-ever NCAA appearance in 1972, the Mids competed at the 1974, 1975, 1976, 1984, 1985, 1988, 1989, 1992, 1997, 2016 and 2017 championships. The 1985 team recorded the highest finish for a Midshipmen squad as they placed seventh overall in the nation.
Aside from Navy’s postseason accolades, Cantello made sure the Mids were nearly always in line to check the Army-Navy Star box. Victorious at a 76.5 percent clip, Cantello led the Mids to 37 wins over the Black Knights in his 50 years in charge. The program’s most successful run came between 1973 and 1986 when the team won 13 straight head-to-head contests versus its service academy rival. More recently, Navy has won seven of its last 10 matchups with Army through the 2017 season.
Individually, Midshipmen have found a host of success with Cantello’s guidance as 10 student-athletes have earned All-American status in cross country and/or distance track events. Five of those Mids were multi-time All-Americans: James Dare (1968 – 3K Steeplechase, 1972 – 3K Steeplechase); Ronnie Harris (1985 – XC, 1987 – 3K and 5K); Greg Keller (1992 – Mile & Steeplechase, 1992 – XC, 1993- Mile & Steeplechase); Jon Clemens (1997 – Indoor 5K, 1997 – Outdoor 3K & Steeplechase) and John Mentzer (1997 – Indoor 5K, 1997 – Outdoor 10K, 1998 – Outdoor 10). Lucas Stalnaker was the last Midshipmen to earn the national accolade as he finished fifth overall in the 10,000-meter run at the 2017 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships.
Additionally, Dare (1968, 1972), Harris (1988, 1992, 1996) and Mentzer (2008) were three of six Midshipmen to compete at the United States Olympic Track & Field Trials. Mark Newman (1996, 2000, 2004), Aaron Lanzel (2004) and Erik Schmidt (2004) make up the complete list of Cantello’s Midshipmen distance athletes to have competed for the right to wear the Red, White and Blue in Olympic competition. Dare qualified for Team USA as an alternate in 1972, while Harris qualified for the team in 1996.
At the Patriot League level, three Midshipmen have won the individual league championship a total of five times with Aaron Hanko finishing first in 2009 and 2010 and Lucas Stalnaker achieving the feat in 2015 and 2016. Steve Schroeder won the title in 2014.
A valued member of the track & field program, Cantello was an assistant coach with the Mids from 1968 through 1980 before taking over as head coach from 1981 to 1988. Beginning with the 1989 season, he moved back to an assistant coaching role. As the head coach of the Mids’ track and field team, Cantello collected 12 N-Star victories over Army. Cumulatively, he has 49 N-Star wins over cross country, indoor track & field, and outdoor track & field. Adding in 51 victories as an assistant coach and Cantello reached the 100-Star milestone this past spring with the men’s 102-101 win at West Point on April 7 in the outdoor meet.
“My credo was a simple equation: ‘their sacrifices will be met by my sacrifices,’ said Cantello. “Setting realistic goals all within the mission of the U.S. Naval Academy has always been my ‘true north.”
As a result of his teams’ success, Cantello has been recognized as the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional Cross Country Coach of the Year four times (1984, 1985, 1992, 2016), NCAA Mid-Atlantic Track & Field Assistant Coach of the Year in 2010 and Patriot League Coach of the Year eight times (2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016). In December of 2013, he was inducted into the USTFCCCA Coaches Hall of Fame.
A world-class competitor in the javelin throw, Cantello once held every national and international record in the event. In 1959, he set a world record in the javelin and the following year he competed with the U.S. Olympic Team at the 1960 Games in Rome. He has been enshrined in La Salle’s Hall of Athletes, as well as the Middle Atlantic Conference Hall of Fame and Penn Relays Wall of Fame for his individual success.
“If you can fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds’ worth of distances run, yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it, and – which is more – you’ll be a Mid, my son!”- Rudyard Kipling with poetic license taken by Coach Cantello
There will a dinner in Cantello’s honor on Friday, October 19 at the Akerson Tower at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, more information will be made available at a later date. Cantello will also be honored the following day during the Navy-Houston football game.
The Cantello File
Coached 10 All-Americans
Four-time NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional Cross Country Coach of the Year
NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional Assistant Track & Field Coach of the Year
Eight-time Patriot League Coach of the Year
USTFCCCA Coaches Hall of Fame
Penn Relays Wall of Fame
La Salle Hall of Athletes
Star Competitions Vs. Army – Record (Pct.)
Cross Country (1968-2007): 37-11-1 (.765)
Indoor T&F (1981-88): 5-3 (.625)
Outdoor T&F (1981-88): 7-1 (.875)