Athlete of Inspiration; Lodi high school's Dominick Anuzzi



It’s Not the Destination, but the Journey

Story by Tom Fiore
Photo by Frank Musarra

(Original publication: Northern Jersey Sports)
Edited by Carl Schell

For Dominic Anuzzi, winning is not everything.  A junior at Lodi HS, Anuzzi competes in the javelin, discus, and shot put on the track team.  Last Wednesday, April 27th, Lodi traveled to Glen Rock for a tri-meet, where he had what some might argue to be his career day.  He launched the javelin nearly 33 feet, his best of the season.  He threw the discus a little over 12 feet.  These distances were not enough to win any of his events, but the fact that he is even out there is a triumph unto itself.

Due to a spinal cord defect he was born with, Anuzzi does not have the ability to use his legs.

“I started out in wheel chair racing, then I found out I could be on the high school team,” he said.  “This is my third year here, and I’m having a great time doing it.”

While some, if not most, people are focused solely on winning, Anuzzi is mainly concerned with seeing how well he can throw and trying to improve from meet-to-meet.  Lodi Athletic Director Pat Tirico is proud of his work ethic, especially how he goes after things.  “He always tries like hell,” Tirico said.  Teammates respect Anuzzi because he wants to be a leader.

Tirico, who also coaches the Lodi Track and Football Teams, remembers when Lodi’s faculty and staff found out that Anuzzi would be attending the school, and being a part of the team.  “We were preparing for someone we would have to babysit.  Then Dom gets here, and he’s probably one of the most independent athletes.”  The seventeen-year-old Anuzzi’s actions speak volumes: he drives himself back and forth to practice, gets himself ready, and never asks for special attention.  He is treated like everyone else.

As a young boy, Anuzzi participated in the Special Olympics, but according to Tirico, “He’d rather be part of a team.” 

“It’s been really great,” Anuzzi said, “nobody cares about the chair.  My teammates are the best.”

When it is his turn to throw, Anuzzi transfers himself from his wheelchair to a special chair he uses to compete.  Teammates and Assistant Coach Jamie Ciofalo then hammer spikes into the ground to keep it in place.  Last year, also at Glen Rock, “One of their star athletes, a football player, helped,” Tirico said.  Last Wednesday, members from all three teams gathered around him to offer their support.

Before he threw, Anuzzi sat in his special chair with a handful of his teammates alongside.  Just like any other group of high school boys, the bulk of the conversation was dedicated to poking fun at one another.  When the sunshine broke through the thick gray clouds a few moments later, Dom asked one of his friends to move a foot to the left to block the sun from his eyes.  Almost immediately, the friend starting joking that perhaps Coach Tirico should get him a parasol.  Laughter ensued, and it was apparent to all that Anuzzi is indeed just another teenager.

Anuzzi performs all three events from the javelin throw.  He sits firmly in his special chair, a plastic milk carton under his feet while Coach Ciofalo provides support from the back to prevent the chair from tipping.  Anuzzi throws the javelin, shot put, and discus three times each.  As he let go of his second javelin, Coach Tirico yelled, “Watch that front shoulder!”  Not only listening to the advice but putting it into effect, Anuzzi’s final javelin was his record-breaker for the year.  “That’s pretty good for me, considering I sit down,” he commented.

George Bate, one of the officials, said, “He’s here for every meet.  It is an amazing thing to watch.”

Anuzzi lifts weights in the off-season and is constantly talking sports.  He is one of the student managers for the football team, and last fall he posed for the team photo in full pads and jersey.  Tirico says that Anuzzi runs in his sleep and dreams of circling the bases after hitting home runs for his beloved New York Yankees.  “He sees himself doing these things, but he’s fine with where he is,” Tirico said.  “He’s handicapped because he can’t walk, not in any other way.”

Anuzzi is not sure what will be next for him.  Once he graduates from Lodi, he plans to attend a community college until he decides what he wants to do.  The one thing he is sure about is sports.  “I enjoy competing, representing my school, and my hometown,” he said.

Tirico believes that Anuzzi may have a chance to place in an event next year.  Doing that and scoring a varsity point is a goal no one would have believed was possible when he was a freshman.  Tirico also said that Anuzzi has thought about becoming a coach and a teacher.

“[For now] I’m just trying to have as normal a high school life as possible,” Anuzzi said. 

His high school life, however, is anything but normal, and it has nothing to do with his chair.  Rather, it has everything to do with the sheer effort and determination he puts forth on a day-to-day basis.   He has faced many obstacles in his life already, and will continue to do so, like everyone does.  And no doubt he will handle these bumps in the road with the class and character he displayed on an ordinary spring afternoon in Glen Rock.


It’s Not the Destination, but the Journey

Story by Tom Fiore
Photos by Frank Musarra

(Original publication: Northern Jersey Sports)

Shot put event Discus event Javelin event

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