Cavalier Corner

June 2018

Cavalier Corner is the publication just for UVa sports fans!

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 19 of 31

20 CAVALIER CORNER BY MIKE SCANDURA V IRGINIA GRADUATE student Mike Marsella has had to over- come the type of physical and mental hurdles that would have crushed a lesser person. Instead, he has cleared every obstacle. Most notably, Marsella became just the third person in Virginia history to run a sub-four-minute mile (3:57.97), which he did during a 2015 indoor meet at Boston University. In addition, he qualified for the 2018 NCAA Championships by clocking a 3:47.55, the 16th-best time, in the 1,500 me- ters at the NCAA East Preliminary Rounds. Marsella, who also ran cross country, has earned multiple All-America and All-ACC honors in both outdoor and indoor track in distance races such as the mile and the 1,500. A native of Hope Valley, R.I., Marsella's record of adversities goes back to his fresh- man year at Chariho High School. One day while walking to his school bus, Marsella collapsed and later was diagnosed with a tumor on his spine. Surgery removed the tumor but physi- cians told him his athletic career was in the rear-view mirror. Not quite. Marsella was named Rhode Island's Ga- torade Cross Country Runner of the Year after capturing the state and New England championships in that sport. When the outdoor track season rolled around, he earned state championships in four events and New England champion- ships in two. But the spine tumor paled in comparison with what happened to Marsella during the fall of 2012, his first-year season at Virginia. He was driving a moped with teammate Adam Visokay on board when they were rammed by a car whose driver had run a red light. Among other things, one of Marsella's eyeballs popped out of its socket; he suf- fered the most severe of concussions (physi- cians had to drill a hole in his head in order to relieve the pressure); he was in a coma for four days; he had to wear a neck brace; and he incurred short-term memory loss. Marsella was justified in asking himself, "Why me?" "Honestly, more than anything that ques- tion helped me more than it hurt me," Mar- sella said. "The fact that this happened made me think it happened for a reason. When I asked myself, 'Why me?' I almost used that as a motivation as opposed to a negative. It was like a test. Instead of feeling bad for myself I used that as a reason to keep going. "The brain injury took away a lot. When I had the brain injury I had a lot of school to complete at the time." How severe was his brain injury? "The doctor, when he was explaining the significance of the damage, said it was like I got 15 concussions all at once," Marsella said. "It was like I played in the NFL for about 30 to 35 years. "Initially after the accident I was [having trouble with my long-term memory], but I never considered anything was over or was a negative consequence of the brain injury. The doctors didn't want me to run because the pounding might injure my brain. "Even a minor impact like slamming my body into the ground while I was running kind of rattled my brain." Marsella's road back to good health was akin to something in a science-fiction movie. "My rehab program was a combination of mental and physical training," he said. "The most memorable rehab activity I did ended with my standing on one foot on a BOSU ball balancing on this uneven surface. I had to solve math problems plus hit lights on this board. "In terms of getting back into physical shape, between [riding] the bike and run- ning in the pool that was tedious and boring. Day after day I would wake up and grind with no expectations. I didn't know if I would be able to come back." Cavalier head cross country and assistant track and field coach Pete Watson had zero doubts about Marsella's ability to "come back." "After about a week after the accident, I had no doubt he would make it back be- cause of the family support," said Watson, who had to inform Marsella's parents of the accident and who admittedly was shocked.

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of Cavalier Corner - June 2018