MISSOULA — A high school golfer turned college sprinter?
It isn't as unlikely as you'd think.
Loyola Sacred Heart boasted one of the best Class B boys sprinting groups during the track and field season, which eventually led the Rams to see some strong success at the state meet in Laurel last weekend.
A tandem of brothers, Ridger and Tytus Palma, played large roles in the Rams taking second as a team. Senior Dominic Maricelli also made noise and he has an interesting story.
Maricelli had never ran track before this season. He was a solid golfer his three years before, but he really had more of an academic focus with sports being more of a fun, side thing to do with his buddies. He decided to go out for track when some of his friends were not on the golf team.
Like many athletes who go out for track with little to zero running experience, he started with sprinting.
From there came the success.
"We've had a lot of really good success at Loyola since I've been here the last five years, but he is probably the best success story," Rams track and field coach Justin Johnston said. "Every day, week over week, we just saw his improvement, and he was really taking in the technical aspects we were teaching him like the mechanics of sprinting. He is still very raw — naturally, he has 90 days under his belt."
Maricelli improved his times each meet and each practice. He went from an unknown, inexperienced sprinter, to the pivotal second leg on Loyola's 4x100 relay team that took the Class B state title.
"It changed about halfway through the season when my times were getting a little bit better," Maricelli said of his mentality with the sport. "I set a goal and that was it throughout the season and I finally got it at the district meet."
His goal was to break 12 seconds in the 100, which he did at the District 13C/14C/6B meet when he ran a 11.73 to take second place.
His performance at the state meet for the 4x100 team and his consistent improvement each week led to a new adventure for the senior. Maricelli already planned on attending Montana Tech for academics and said he was enrolled already for the upcoming fall semester.
He had thoughts of trying track at the college level and he emailed one of the Montana Tech coaches before the state met, but he didn't hear back. He didn't think much of it, despite being a little bummed, and decided to go out and do his thing at state in Laurel.
A few days later, Montana Tech came calling and offered him a spot on the track team after reps from the school in attendance saw what he did in the 4x100 at state.
"All I know is, when I got that call I was pretty excited," Maricelli said. " ... Honestly if I think I can get some coaching in and practice I think my times will improve."
He was placed on the first straightaway, opposite Ridger Palma who ran the anchor. His placement on the second 100 meters was important for Johnston, who said they put him there to get a steady senior in between a youthful first and third leg.
"I was about sick before the final but the race went off perfectly," Johnston said.
Maricelli signed his letter of intent Thursday in front of a small group of his family, friends and Loyola coaches.
Despite his inexperience with the sport, his head coach sees plenty of potential if he puts in the work at Montana Tech like he did at Loyola.
"His upside is still limitless and if he engages at Tech like he did here," Johnston said. " ... It's funny, when you get someone as a senior you don't know what to expect. Every kid wants to be a sprinter. When they first come out we let them do the events they think they want to do, and then as a coaching staff ... we find out where their niche is going to be. Every week Dom just kept getting faster, and faster, and faster and we were like 'OK, you're a sprinter.'"