Slow & Steady Wins the Race
The Story of a Runner and the Coach That Inspired Her to Find Her Wings
When Lydia Olivere crossed the finish line for the first time as a Padua Cross Country Runner, it was far from a finale. In-fact it was just the beginning of a run that has already taken this Class of 2018 Graduate from Delaware to the international stage, inspiring our current students and the greater Padua community.
“I just never realized what running could give you” says Lydia, one of Delaware’s most decorated track and field athletes in state high school history. “I’ve been able to visit places I wouldn’t have ordinarily imagined traveling to, and meeting people from the United States and other countries. It’s been amazing.”
As a sophomore at Villanova University, this all-academic athlete is fast. She’s so fast, that this very article about her had to be updated several times, most recently to include her latest accomplishment, Big East Champion!
"This is very surreal," Olivere said of capturing the individual Big East crown. "I was not expecting this. It was in the back of my mind that after being top-10 last year hopefully this year I could be top five, so coming in I was just thinking that I had to get as low of a score as I could to help the team. It went really well today, better than I was expecting."
And it’s with this same humility and graciousness that Lydia would capture hearts and a gold medal at the 2019 U20 Pan American Junior Athletics Championships in a race she had never previously competed in, the 3,000-meter steeplechase.
She gets her work ethic honestly. Lydia’s lineage includes a long line of PaduaPROUD family members. Did we mention they were also runners? Her mom Linda, Padua Class of 1981, placed 11th in the first girls state cross-country championship in 1981, and was first-team All-State that same year as a senior. And joining Lydia on those lists of Delaware distance standouts and state champions are aunts Denise, Theresa and Marianne from her father’s side.
While at Padua, Lydia won 30 state individual and relay titles in cross-country and track and helped her team to claim every state cross-country, indoor track and outdoor track team title, carrying on Padua’s strong heritage in track and field nurtured by Coach Marnie Giunta.
When asked for her advice to current students, Lydia said to “enjoy your time at Padua and be happy where you are. It’s the right place to find the role models and influencers you will need in your life.” And for Olivere, Coach Giunta was and continues to be one of these role models.
“She taught me that I am prepared to get through any situation,” says Olivere. “She saw potential in me, encouraged me and it’s because of Coach Giunta that we were all exposed to big showcase races and special workouts that put our health first.”
And Coach Giunta echoes this sentiment when she speaks about her own love for the sport and the young women she coaches.
“There is SO much out there for these girls because of their sport. It gives you a network of people. It gives you drive for life on a professional level. And you can bring this love to wherever the next trail leads you in life.” In Coach Giunta’s words, you can “seek and build it elsewhere.”
It was Coach Giunta’s late entry into the sport herself that has inspired her to impart a “slow and steady wins the race” mentality that puts the athletes’ “health and longevity first.” In Coach Giunta’s words, “it’s a progression of great years that lead to a successful collegiate career, and possibly beyond.”
Coach Giunta is motivated by her student athletes. “They make my job fun. It doesn’t even feel like a job. The girls teach me, and I’m able to make changes and improvements based on their feedback and results. It’s truly a team effort.”
And it’s this mutual appreciation between coach and athletes that led Marnie to be honored with the coveted Tubby Raymond Coach of the Year Award by the Delaware Sportswriters and Broadcaster's Association. This award also proved that humility doesn’t fall far from the tree when it comes to Padua’s Track and Field.
“I was truly blessed because our girls got recognized. It wasn’t just about me. They were able to see their accomplishments through this award.”
As for the potential Coach Giunta saw in Lydia, “She always wanted success but loved to celebrate her sisters. Lydia’s own successes never trumped her Padua team spirit. And for that reason her teammates loved her.”
And it’s this team spirit that brings Lydia back to N. Broom Street for cross-country pre-season and keeps her connected to former classmates and teachers. “I talk to them almost every day. There’s no other place like Padua. It’s a community you never leave.”