A mainstay at the U.S. Naval Academy for more than half a century — 51 years, to be exact — Al Cantello has been the guiding force for a Navy distance program that shifted the balance of power in the long and storied Army-Navy rivalry firmly in favor of the Midshipmen.
Cantello, a world-class javelin thrower prior to his tenure with the Midshipmen, has served to date as the head coach of the men’s cross country program for 46 seasons and was in charge of the men’s track & field programs from 1981-88, serving as an assistant for the program throughout the remainder of his career. In total, he has guided those programs to a combined record of 318-81-2, including a combined 46 N-Stars — signifying victory over rival Army — 35 of which came through cross country.
His 35 head-to-head wins over Army in cross country, part of a 35-9-1 record against the Black Knights, is the most by a Navy coach in any sport in Academy history. Prior to his arrival as the head coach, the Midshipmen were just 12-19 all-time in cross country against Army.
During his tenure he has coached three cross country All-Americans and four indoor/outdoor track & field All-Americans, and has been named the Mid-Atlantic Regional Coach of the Year three times. He has also been named Patriot League Coach of the Year four times, earning the honor four straight years from 2008-2011 as the Midshipmen claimed four consecutive conference titles. He coached Patriot League champion Andrew Hanko in both 2009 and 2010.
Cantello has been honored for not only his athletic accomplishments, but also his work in the field of education. The Naval Academy Alumni Association awarded him the Distinguished Athletic Leadership Award in 1997, given to a coach or faculty member who did the most for the physical development of the Midshipmen in physical education. That same year his peers honored him with the inaugural Tom Hamilton Teaching/Coaching award. At the Patriot League level, he was awarded in 2008 the Patriot League Award of Good Sporting Conduct.
Prior to his days coaching at Navy, he was a 1955 graduate of La Salle, where he was a two-time All-American in the javelin. Cantello set the world record in 1959 and competed at the Rome Olympics the following year in 1960 as a member of the United States team. He was voted the world’s greatest javelin competitor in Sport magazine in 1964 and named to its all-time track & field team. He was inducted into the La Salle Hall of Athletes as a charter member in 1961.