By Laura Staples
Distance runners are a different breed. They live, eat, sleep and breathe running, which requires commitment, passion and a willingness to push the body beyond comfort every single day of the year. They are the people you see running through the heat, rain and snow, and think “Are those people crazy?”
Freshman Anthony Dentino, a member of the track and field and cross country teams, will tell you “yes,” they are the craziest of all because enduring weather, pain and exhaustion is no excuse not to run.
Most 10-year-old boys look forward to fishing or playing catch with their fathers. Dentino, however, was excited to lace up his beginner-running shoes and run alongside his dad, a consistent marathoner. Dentino would watch his dad run and talk about his marathons and developed a similar addiction to the sport of distance running.
“Both my mom and dad were runners, so it pretty much ran in the family,” Dentino said. “I really looked up to them and loved running with my dad.”
After a few years of rookie training runs with his dad, Dentino signed up for cross-country his first day of high school. Like father, like son, Dentino took off running.
He didn’t initially join the varsity team that year, but remained the top freshman on Washington Township high school’s cross-country team. Most runners continue to run winter track immediately following the fall running season, but Dentino was torn between basketball and winter track. Ultimately, he decided to take his skills to the hardwood. It wasn’t until his spring track coach trained and motivated Dentino enough that he realized which sport was going to be more rewarding.
“I didn’t realize that I actually had some real talent in running prior to my freshman year, spring track season,” Dentino said. “When I broke five minutes in the mile, I realized I could do more if I worked hard.”
Hungry for more success, Dentino devoted his summer to training. He woke up every sweltering day to log miles and prepare for the upcoming season. His determination paid off as Dentino watched seconds melt off his personal best time in the five-kilometer race.
By the end of the season, the former rookie could officially say he was a varsity runner and had achieved a new personal record that was about two and a half minutes better than his former.
“It just hit me,” Dentino said “This sport really is for me.”
Reaching the end of his high school career with four successful years of running logged in his sneakers, Dentino had to decide where he would continue his career.
Bob Hamer, head coach of the cross country and track and field programs at Rider, had his sights set on Dentino joining the Broncs. He was persistent in calling Dentino, informing him that he would be one of the guys who could turn the program around. After contemplating many options, Dentino knew Rider was the right choice and confirmed he would be a Bronc the next fall.
After the gun sounded, marking his first collegiate cross country race, Dentino never looked back. He came in first for the team and was never satisfied with settling.
Following his first race, Dentino remained in the top-five, scoring for the team in every race. At the MAAC Championships, Dentino achieved All-MAAC status, placing 13th.
Dentino was exactly what Hamer was looking for in a new runner: determined and constantly hungry for more.
“It’s been a real pleasure coaching Dentino,” Hamer said. “He is extremely talented and has a willingness to work hard and learn more. He harnesses his energy in a way that produces successful, consistent results.”
Dentino knew Rider was the right choice after he saw the coaching similarities between his high school coach and Hamer.
“I always knew I could work hard, but it’s nothing without a coach to guide and push you,” Dentino said.
The first semester of his collegiate running career has been successful and exciting and he still has three and a half years to compete.
Dentino is ready to face the winter track season and add to his already impressive list of accomplishments. Both Hamer and Dentino are striving for a possible IC4A track and field appearance in the near future, followed by a trip to the NCAA Nationals.
“It’s great to be one of the guys who are changing the program for the better,” Dentino said. “I am looking forward to continue training to make it to Nationals and hopefully sneak an All-American [placement] before I graduate.”
Nationals or not, Dentino will never stop fighting and will never stop running.