Athletic Achievers

Softball pitcher Christina Toniolo

A standout collegiate softball pitcher, Christina Toniolo took her game to an unimagined level after she was recruited by the manager of Team Italy. In early 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, softball pitcher Christina Toniolo had a feeling she needed to pick up a phone call whose ID said “Italy,” even though as a rule she ignored unknown calls. That decision changed her life. Toniolo, who will be 23 this month, is a member of Italy’s national women’s softball team. Though she graduated last year with a degree in biology from the University of Illinois Chicago, she chose …

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Pool champ Eric Naretto

Crediting pool with saving him during a dark period in his life, Eric Naretto has risen through the ranks of the sport through a combination of fascination and dedication. 2023 was the best year as an amateur competitive pool player for Eric Naretto, who credits the sport with helping him develop into the person he is today. Naretto, 35, of Pontiac, Illinois, placed third in Skill Level 7, the highest level in 8-Ball Classic at the 2023 American Poolplayers Association national championship, and he was the runner-up in 9-Ball at the 2023 Midwest Billiards and Cue Expo championship. The accomplishments …

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Sportscaster Maria Marino

A veteran sportscaster at the age of 34, Maria Marino is forever broadening her skills and expanding her horizons in the profession. Multimedia on-air personality Maria Marino has a clear philosophy: Take advantage of any opportunity for growth. “I want to keep pushing boundaries,” the 34-year-old New Jersey native says. “It can be a hard path, but I think it’s rewarding when you keep challenging yourself and putting yourself in situations where you’re going to learn and grow.” For the past year, Marino has worked for the sports media company Action Network, where she hosts the Monday-through-Friday podcast “Green Dot …

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Swimmer Ann Carozza

A specialist in the hardest stroke in swimming, Ann Carozza was a champion in and out of the pool during her college career. After shining as an NCAA Division II star swimmer, Ann Carozza this month will attend the NCAA Convention as one of the Top 30 semifinalists for the Woman of the Year Award. The 23-year-old graduated in May from West Chester University with a major in special education and a minor in autism education, and now works as a learning support teacher at Bayard Rustin High School in West Chester, Pennsylvania. She also is a volunteer assistant swim …

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Equestrian Giavanna Rinaldi

A champion equestrian who has been riding pretty much her entire life, Giavanna Rinaldi has achieved success by getting to know her horses on the ground as well as in the saddle. From her first pony ride as a toddler, equestrian show jumper Giavanna Rinaldi always knew there was nowhere else she’d rather be than on a horse. Born and raised in Wayne, Illinois, Rinaldi’s passion ignited when she became enchanted by pony rides at a nearby stable. “I thought I was on top of the world sitting on the ponies, walking around in circles,” the 24-year-old recalls. “I couldn’t …

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Long-distance cyclist Giulia Baroncini

A longtime leisure cyclist, Giulia Baroncini took her passion to the next level this summer by biking from her hometown in Italy to the Windy City. After cycling nearly 2,500 miles in two months to repeat a feat accomplished 130 years ago, Giulia Baroncini says she learned a great deal about the people and places she visited — and about herself. The 33-year-old native of Polesine, in the region of Veneto, followed a trail blazed by Luigi Masetti, who is considered the father of cycling tourism. After having cycled across Europe, Masetti accomplished the so-called “Viaggissimo” (the Great Trip) in …

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Hockey forward Hayley Scamurra

A member of the U.S. women’s national hockey team since 2019, Hayley Scamurra has discovered a unique way to up her game. Growing up with a father who had played professional ice hockey and three older brothers who loved to lace up their skates in the backyard rink, Hayley Scamurra found her passion for the sport early on. The 28-year-old now is a veteran of the U.S. women’s ice hockey team, which took gold in May at the 2023 Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship. “That was pretty incredible,” says Scamurra, a forward/left wing whose father, Peter Scamurra, played for the …

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College running back Vinny Rugai

A standout running back at St. Ignatius College Prep in Chicago, Vinny Rugai eschews social media while he works to perfect his football skills. Vinny Rugai is not the kind of football player who wants to attract attention and gain social media followers. Instead, the 18-year-old believes in working hard and plugging away at his goals. That attitude has resulted in Rugai first forging a path as a standout high school athlete and now as a freshman at Fordham University in New York, where he was a preferred walk-on. “I am pretty driven, but I am also one of those …

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Italian skier Marta Bassino

On skis since she was barely walking, Marta Bassino has hurtled to the top of the sport, notching countless podium visits on the local, regional, national and international levels. After first stepping into skis when she wasn’t even 2 years old, Marta Bassino grew up whizzing down slopes in her native Northern Italy, perfectly at home on the snow. “It was always something very natural,” the 27-year-old says of her sport. “When you start so little, it becomes normal. It feels normal.” Over the years, her talent and hard work catapulted Bassino, a native of Borgo San Dalmazzo in the …

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Ski slalom champ Tina Grossi

A recreational water skier since grade school, Tina Grossi recently took home gold in ski slalom in the 55- to 59-year-old division of the amateur national championship. As the top seed in her age division for water ski slalom at the amateur national championships last year, Tina Grossi was the last one on the water, making her acutely aware of how well her competitors had performed. “Top seed can be both a blessing and a curse. It was a relief when the ski ride was over,” says the 57-year-old Californian, who aced her performance in the women’s 55- to 59-year-old …

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