"There’s no other place like Padua. It’s a community you never leave.”
- Lydia Olivere '18
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! (--> Please see below for updates as of November 27!)
"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.”
Since this article was originally published, not only did Lydia add NCAA Mid-Atlantic Region Individual Champion to her resume, she was also named Mid-Atlantic Region Athlete of the Year by the United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA). The award is voted on by the head coaches of the schools in the Mid-Atlantic Region and is the first career regional award for Olivere. She and her Villanova Wildcats advanced to the 2019 NCAA National Championships, where she placed 29th, earning her All-American honors, and helping Villanova to secure 24th position.
It is only the sixth time since 2000 and the first time since 2011 that a Villanova athlete has achieved a double BIG EAST and NCAA Individual Champion honor in the same year. Olivere won three of her four starts overall, with a first place finish at the season-opening Main Line Invitational.
She was also named to the United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) Mid-Atlantic All-Region Team (First Team). This is the fifth straight year and 12th time in the last 13 seasons that Villanova has had at least three all-region performers.
Olivere will officially earn her first career All-America accolade when those honors are announced next week. She will be the Wildcats’ 57th All-American in Cross Country and the third in the last four years.
Please consider making a contribution in either Lydia or Coach Giunta's name:)
> Donate to @PaduaAcademy
> Donate via our Online Form