By NANCY D’UVA Contributing Writer
Published in The Progress
When Mount St. Dominic Academy senior Gianna Mangili '22 crossed the finish line in her last race at the outdoor 2022 state Meet of Champions, the last track meet of her high school career, she couldn’t help but smile.
“My last 200, I crossed the finish line smiling,” she said. “It was my last high school race. There was no better way to go out. It was a big deal to be there. I’m so proud of myself for getting to that point.”
At the Meet of Champions on June 18, Mangili, who resides in Pine Brook, finished in third place in the 100m dash, in fourth place in the 200m dash and was part of the 4x100m relay team that finished in eighth place.
“Last year, I qualified as a junior but missed the finals; I placed ninth (in the 100m),” she said. “My biggest goal (this year) was to make the finals at the Meet of Champions. I worked my whole career to make the final of the 100m dash, then I medaled and got third place. I wasn’t supposed to do that well. For the 200, I wasn’t in the seeded heat. My time ended up being faster than girls in the seeded heat. I like being the underdog; I surprise people.”
Mangili recalled a few other highlights of her junior and senior years.
“The most memorable would be last year when I won counties (100m dash at the outdoor Essex County Championships). I wasn’t supposed to. I was supposed to come in third place. It was raining. I kept telling myself to run as fast as I can and what happens will happen. It was the coolest thing ever. No one expected a junior from Mount St. Dominic to win.
“This year as a senior (for indoor track), I won the 4x400 relay and the 55m for states (NJSIAA Non-Public B Championships), and I can finally say I’m a state champion.”
Mangili is the school record holder in the indoor 55m dash and 200m dash and is part of the school record 4x200m relay team. She also holds the outdoor school records in the 100m dash and 200m dash and is part of the school record 4x100m and 4x800m medley relay teams.
“Gianna will go down as one of the all-time greats in the storied history of MSDA track and field,” said Lions track coach Rob DeCarlo. “Gianna performed at the highest levels for the past two seasons but really came into her own this year.”
In her senior year, Mangili won the 55m dash at the indoor Essex County Championships. She placed second in the 55m at the Meet of Champions and third in the 55m dash and 200m dash at the Eastern States Championships. Outdoors, she placed second in the 100m dash and third in the 200m dash at the Non-Public A Championships.
She started playing soccer when she was 3 years old and played club soccer until her junior year. After her sophomore year at the Mount, she shifted her focus from soccer to track.
“I went to the Mount thinking I was going to be a club soccer player and play college soccer,” she said. “I switched my focus to track and kept up club soccer. I was good at track and ended up pursuing it and loving it.”
She also was a stand-out, four-year soccer player at the Mount.
“This year we accomplished so much. I’m proud of what we did,” said Mangili, who led the team with 20 goals in her senior year. “We were second in the conference. We made it to the state semifinals against IHA. It was a big deal because we were a really young team this year. Making it to that point was huge. We had a really good run.”
She will continue her academic and athletic career at Lehigh University, where she will compete in indoor and outdoor track.
“Lehigh reminded me the most of the Mount,” she said, adding that she’s interested in pursuing cognitive science and speech pathology. “The Mount is a small private school, and the community there feels like a family. Lehigh is also a smaller school. When I went there, the team felt like a family. I’ll be academically challenged and motivated there. I’ll do better.”
Mangili leaves a legacy at the Mount. “Gianna has exemplified dedication to her craft as well as being a leader – both in words and deeds,” DeCarlo said. “Her performances on the track notwithstanding, her leadership off the track, especially as a valued and vocal voice for her teammates, hasn’t gone unnoticed. She is a generational athlete, whose once-in-a-lifetime talents will certainly be as hard to replace as her times will be hard to beat.”
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