Scelzi finds strength from past adversity

For USF senior track and field decathlete Grant Scelzi, life has been about overcoming personal tragedy through hard work. 

Scelzi knows about tragedy and loss.

A standout athlete for the Bulls, the Florida native keeps the memory of his dead parents close to his heart.

Scelzi’s father, Richard, was a lifelong athlete, but had a heart attack and died at the age of 44. Scelzi was 14-years old.

“My brothers and I always looked up to him,” Scelzi said. “He taught us to do things the right way. Either do it 110 percent, or not at all.”

For Scelzi, who grew up in Tarpon Springs, the pain didn’t stop there. His mother, Patricia, died in 1991 from breast cancer.

“It was hard for everybody losing both parents so early,” said Clay, Scelzi’s brother. “We all dealt with it in different ways. For Grant, it was sports. It was a place where he could have fun and forget about things.”

Through the loss of their parents, Scelzi and his brother have built a lasting connection, competing against each other at almost everything. Their parents made sure their children stayed active, and Scelzi’s first love was baseball.

At Largo High School, Scelzi lettered in four sports and took the state championship in 2005 for the pole vault. By 2007, he had become the Most Improved Male Athlete for the Bulls’ track team.

“Playing multiple sports in high school kept me very busy,” Scelzi said. “I was always training for something, which made it easier to transition to the decathlon.”

The decathlon is made up of ten events: long jump, high jump, shot put, discus, 100 and 400-meter dash, 1500-meter run, 110-meter hurdles, pole vault and javelin. Competitors combine their scores over two days, with the highest point total winning.

Scelzi holds a USF school record of 6,532 total points, which he set April 11. He also qualified for the NCAA regional championships in the pole vault. He said he didn’t see himself as a likely candidate for the success in the event. 

“I told myself I would never pole vault,” he said. “It looked so strange. They stuck a pole in my hand for the first time and I vaulted 9 feet. I was surprised.”

As Scelzi’s collegiate track career winds down, he said he is looking to the future, which likely doesn’t hold a career in sports.

Scelzi is working towards a communication degree and plans to stay in the Tampa Bay area. However, he said he still enjoys working with the track team and that working with coach Warren Bye has been a worthwhile experience.

“Coach will put you in the right position for success,” Scelzi said.  “He was my combined-events coach freshman year, and told me if I worked hard great things would happen.”

Scelzi said he hopes he can someday teach the work ethic he learned from his father to others through coaching.

 Along with being a decathlete, Scelzi has been a field crew member on campus, doing ground work on the USF Softball Field, Red McEwen Field, and the newly renovated track-and-field complex.

“I’ve been doing it for three years now and I work with some great guys,” he said.

Scelzi said he’s not sure what the future holds, but that no matter what, he’ll continue to work hard.

“The harder I work, the better I feel,” he said.