Gateway grad Marnie Giunta named among top coaches in state of Delaware

Sunday, August 27, 2023 | 11:01 AM

Marnie Giunta is considered one of the top coaches in the history of athletics in the state of Delaware.

The 1989 Gateway graduate and longtime cross country and indoor and outdoor track and field coach at Padua Academy, an all-girls school in Wilmington, Del., recently was honored with that distinction.

She landed in 21st out of 125 on a list of Delaware’s top coaches of any sport at any level compiled by Wilmington-based Delaware Online/The News Journal.

“My initial reaction was, ‘Oh, I’m only 21?’” Giunta said with a chuckle.

“It made me think that I have a lot more work to do. When I heard the reaction from people including those close to me, I realized that it was pretty awesome. A lot of the people on there are Delaware natives. I am not one of them, so I had to earn that respect. I did earn some accolades from doing well at (the University of) Delaware, but in coaching, it took a while to earn that respect from my peers. Everyone seems to know my name now. I definitely couldn’t have been in position to receive this recognition without the hard work and dedication from all of the athletes I have coached.”

Giunta pointed to Rod Lambert, the founder of the track and field program at Padua Academy and a charter member of the Delaware Track and Field Hall of Fame, in helping shape her own coaching career.

“He was somebody I would go to for advice at the beginning of my career,” she said. “Any time I would do something, I would think, ‘Would Rod do this?’ He was a groundbreaker for track and field at Padua.”

Lambert, who died in 2017 aged 75, checked in at No. 40 on the coaches list.

“To be listed above him, this has to be a terrific honor,” Giunta said. “I am honored to represent cross country and track and field on this list.”

Giunta worked in the corporate world for several years after graduating in 1993 from Delaware with a degree in accounting.

Coaching came years later.

Giunta came to Padua in the spring of 2007 as an assistant track and field coach in charge of the distance group.

In the fall of that year, she added head cross country coach to her resume and helped guide the Pandas to the first of two straight Division I state championships.

Padua finished as the Division II state runner up in 2010.

The Pandas have owned Division I cross country as of late with 10 consecutive state crowns.

Giunta was elevated to Padua’s head indoor and outdoor track and field coach in 2010.

She said that while success in cross country was immediate, it took a little while longer to find that championship form in track and field.

Padua won Division II outdoor state titles in 2012 and 2013 before moving to Division I in 2014 where it also captured state gold. The Pandas have won every Division I outdoor state title since then. This past spring, they outdistanced the runner-up by 94 points.

In all, Giunta has directed Padua’s cross country, indoor track and outdoor track teams to a combined 32 state championships.

Behind the numbers, the titles and championship finishes, Giunta said her student-athletes themselves have been the driving force for the programs’ success.

“It was building a culture of winning where you respected those who came before you,” Giunta said.

“The uniform is not an entitlement. It is something that you are proud of. There is pride that comes from that. The alumni come back and are excited for the current teams and athletes.

Giunta first made her mark in the First State while a collegiate cross country, indoor track, and outdoor track runner at Delaware.

She set multiple track and field school records there including the outdoor 800 meters.

Giunta said all of her records have since been broken.

One of her Padua athletes, she said, was part of a quartet at Delaware which broke one of her relay records.

Giunta earned 11 letters during her four years at Gateway — four in track and field, three in cross country, three in basketball and one in swimming.

Her first championship experience with the Gators came in the winter of 1986 as she was a part of the

PIAA-winning girls swim team that included standouts Michelle Chow, Anne Spaeder and Melanie Morgan

She then switched her winter focus to basketball.

Giunta ran cross country for the first time in the fall of 1986, as a sophomore, and helped guide the Gateway girls to a WPIAL Class AAA title and a trip to states.

The Gators were back on top of the WPIAL in 1988 which included a third consecutive PIAA appearance.

“Honestly, it was fantastic,” Giunta said of her athletic experience representing Gateway.

“That was where I was able to develop my networking crowd. My teammates, friends and coaches ended up becoming my community. When I was there, I wanted to make them proud. When I talk to people, I am proud to say that I went to Gateway.

“One thing I remember was that our class was over 400 students, and I swear we were all friends. Out here in Delaware, all of the class sizes are smaller and they do know one another. It’s like, ‘How did you know 400 people?’ We just did. Going to college in Delaware kind of took me in a different direction from most of my classmates, but Facebook definitely helped bring us all back together.”

Giunta said that she wouldn’t be where she is today as a coach without the foundation of success gained at Gateway under the direction of Tom LaBuff, who continues to this day as the head coach of both the Gators cross country and track and field teams.

“We might not have appreciated it as much back when we were teenagers, because, well, we were teenagers, but he truly cared about you as an athlete and person, and he wanted to make sure he brought out the best in you,” Giunta said.

“He would ask us things like, ‘Are you going to go run in the morning?’ We had some funny reactions to that, but we would look back and realize that it would help make us better runners. He was always so proud of us, no matter where we finished in a race or in a meet. We also knew that if we were struggling, he was struggling with us. You could sense his pain over our pain and any adversity we were going through. To this day, one of the things that I hold true with my kids is that I want to prepare them to be the best version of themselves. I don’t want them to be anyone but them.”

LaBuff said he looks back at Giunta’s Gateway career and remembers the qualities she displayed as an athlete and how they have served her well for the better part of the past two decades.

“I had Marnie in class and also in running, and she was just a delight to coach because she tried to do everything you asked her to do,” LaBuff said.

“She was one of the toughest athletes I’ve ever coached, male or female. She had some stress injuries she ran through that would sideline most kids. She was as good a person as she was a runner.

“Marie worked hard for her team and her teammates, and I am sure a lot of that she took with her that laid a foundation, so to speak, for her career in coaching. She just loves the sports she coaches, and her kids, I’m sure, feed off that energy.”

Michael Love is a TribLive reporter covering sports in the Alle-Kiski Valley and the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh. A Clearfield native and a graduate of Westminster (Pa.), he joined the Trib in 2002 after spending five years at the Clearfield Progress. He can be reached at

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