SHRUB OAK, N.Y. - There are some memories from high school that stick with you your whole life. Back in 1953, Tom Maroselli earned a letter for winning medals in the javelin throw at track and field meets at his school in the Bronx.
The now 82-year-old, who lives in Shrub Oak with his wife, Anne, after raising his family in Yorktown, remembers the feeling well.
“In high school, you had these athletic assemblies where you went on stage to get a letter—the whole student body was there,” he explained. “You put it on your sweater, and you know, that little adulation went a long way for me.”
Though Maroselli never thought of himself as particularly gifted in the sport, the fact that he had been skilled enough to get a medal in high school, along with a nudge in 2015 from his old high school buddy, Joe Antonelli, became sparks for his idea to pick up the javelin again and see what he could accomplish.
He began to practice both in his backyard and at an indoor area at Solaris Sports Club in Yorktown. Throwing felt pretty good to Maroselli and his daughter strongly urged him to take it to the next level.
“I researched it and found out that practically every state has its own version of the ‘Senior Olympics’—either called the Senior Games, Master Games or Empire State Games—and they are grouped by age categories,” he said. “They have gold, silver and bronze medals.”
The former chemistry teacher, father of three and grandfather of three knows about dedication and perseverance. He served in the military after graduating from Fordham University.
“I was a reserve officer, training corps at college and I wound up in Fort Polk, Louisiana, for a year,” he recalled. “Then the second armored division in Texas for another year and by the time I left, I was promoted to first lieutenant.”
Maroselli was not going to let age or even the triple bypass heart surgery he underwent in 2011 get in the way of his renewed passion for throwing the javelin. In fact, he competed in his first meet following his surgery and won a medal.
Anne has watched her husband get better and more confident in the 14 meets he has participated in since then.
“Tom has improved so much that now he works not so much to beat out anybody else, but to beat his own record,” she said. That record includes one silver, one bronze and 11 gold medals to date, along with being ranked number seven in the country for his age group in 2016.
Seniors who throw javelin use a spear that is 400 grams; the distance it is thrown can vary by age. Maroselli’ s personal best is about 76 feet (he started out in 2014 at 53-65 feet). He remains focused on the camaraderie and the overall experience more than the competition.
“Fun, friendship and fitness, in that order,” he said. “You go there, you meet the same people after a while and become attached to each other—it’s not a hard-nosed atmosphere—some people were wonderful when they were younger but then nature steps in and they lose a good part of it.”
Anne agreed: “Everybody who is there is cheered on, no matter what the performance is—they are appreciated and they are applauded.”
Off the field, Maroselli is a special minister of the Eucharist at St. Patrick’s Church in Yorktown and also helps out with his wife’s volunteer duties at Support Connection, a services organization for those affected by breast and ovarian cancer. The couple enjoys working out and are very devoted to their family.
The senior athlete encourages anyone who might be thinking about going back to an activity from their youth to just go for it and to believe in themselves.
“By all means, look into the senior games, take up your sport again and have fun,” he said.
For his good friend who encouraged him to do the same, Maroselli published a message in their old high school’s track magazine:
“To my dear friend, Joe Antonelli, ’53, whose kind words inspired me to throw the javelin after 61 years. I entered the Senior Olympics in six states this summer and won six medals. Thanks for the memories, Joe!”