As a freshman at Middletown High School South in 2015, Mark Anselmi got cut from the boys’ basketball team.
For a kid who considered himself “a basketball guy,” it was a devastating moment. But Anselmi didn’t think about it for too long.
He literally “walked over” to the indoor track team at Middletown South, and then discovered himself as an athlete.
Anselmi said he always “loved to jump.”
“It sounds weird. It is weird,” he added. “But I really just loved to jump, so I tried high jump and fell in love with it the first day I did it.”
Three and a half years later, on June 8 at Northern Burlington County Regional High School in Columbus, Anselmi became the best high jumper in New Jersey.
In the NJSIAA Meet of Champions, the now senior won the boys’ high jump state title with a height of 6-8 in the final.
The five second-place finishers posted a height of 6-6 in the climactic round. Overall, Anselmi beat 16 other competitors for the state title.
The tall, long former basketball player was smiling wide, bending over and breathing heavy after his triumph.
“The jump felt amazing,” Anselmi said. “It was my last meet in New Jersey. I wanted to come up and show out.”
“It means more than I can describe,” he added. “I live, eat and sleep track and field.”
Anselmi will continue his track and field career at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia next year. Penn has to be feeling good about its new athlete after his tremendous senior campaign.
On May 24 at Jackson Liberty High School, the senior also won the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 3 sectional title in the high jump. Then on June 1 at Central Regional High School in Bayville, Anselmi earned the NJSIAA Group 3 title with a career high height of 6-09.25. That jump also broke Middletown South’s program record for the high jump event.
Finally, on June 13 in Greensboro, N.C., Anselmi participated in the New Balance Nationals Outdoor meet.
“He’s been outstanding for four years,” said Middletown South coach Nick Wright. “He’s the top high jumper and athlete I’ve ever coached.”
“Mark works harder and is more dedicated and determined than anybody,” Wright added.
Anselmi worked so hard because he never forgot getting cut from the basketball team. After that, he never envisioned this kind of success. He just worked hard as a matter of survival and relevance within Wright’s program.
Then it paid off.
“I’m blessed to be in this position,” Anselmi said. “I was a basketball guy, but not a good basketball guy.”
The senior laughed at the memory. Then he looked ahead. He said he is nervous but excited for his next chapter at U Penn.
“I’ve talked to a lot of guys on the team and they are great people,” Anselmi said. “I can only hope that I’m going to have a great career there as well.”
“He’s coachable, he listens and he handles stress real well,” Wright added. “So he’s not done yet.”
Anselmi will graduate from Middletown South on June 18. After that, he will be off to Philadelphia for that next chapter.