BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - It's official, Victoria Vanriele, Gov. Livingston's standout track star, will continue her track career at Penn State University. She signed her letter on National Signing Day at a ceremony held at the school flanked by family, coaches, teammates and friends.
Some of Vanriele's running career accomplishments include:
- Colgate Woman's Game Middle School Title
- USATF National Age-Group Title
- Two-time NJ Gatorade Player of the Year
- Six-time Meet of Champion
- 10-time Group 2 State Champion
- Four-time All-American at US Nationals
- and multiple-times Union County Indoor and Outdoor Champion, two-time Union County Cross Country Champion and Championship Course Record Holder.
Vanriele credits her Woodruff Elementary School physical education teacher Lauren Ryan for her running career. Ryan noticed her potential with the Presidential Fitness Challenge, said Vanriele. In fifth grade, Ryan handed her an invite to participate in the Colgate Women's Games held in New York. While Vanriele's parents gave her a little push back to compete in this New York meet due to her young age, "eventually they went with me," Vanriele said. A coach approached her at the sign-in and he asked her to join his Comet Track Club in East Orange. In middle school, she ran for Coach Anthony Smith (Coach Tony) and the Plainfield Tsunami Track and Field Club. "That's where I made the most dividends in my running -- and set me up perfectly for high school -- now we're here," she said.
Jewel and Horace Vanriele spoke of what track has taught their daughter and recognized her hard work, dedication and accomplishments. They thanked her coaches, school administration and the town for their support over the years.
"What's most important is all that track has taught you -- to be strong, discipline, tactical, fierce, humble, resilient, a good sport, persistent, patient and grateful. Attributes that will serve you well in life," Jewel Vanriele said to Victoria. "My wish for you is for God to continue to bless you and for you to use your blessings of talent, resources, and time to do good in this world. This time next year, I will be cheering you on, three and a half hours away from Happy Valley. Know that I will always be your number one fan and that we love you unconditionally."
Gov. Livingston Head Track and Field Coach Dan Guyton reminded the room that Vanriele still has two seasons left at Gov. Livingston. "We still have two more seasons. We can't wait to get to work and have the most fun and embrace the last three or four months of running track. We all feel so blessed," said Coach Guyton.
Vanriele was heavily recruited and she narrowed her choice to UPenn and Penn State University. She said Coach John Gondak, Penn State's head Track and Field coach, was a huge deciding factor. "I know coaches are able to leave at whatever point, so you can't base your entire decision on a coach -- but the Penn State coach was a huge factor."
Vanriele will be among the nation's best 800 M collegiate runners at Penn State. In 2019, Gondak mentored Danae Rivers to Penn State's first women's indoor individual NCAA national championship. Rivers was also named Big 10 Champion, among other titles. Along with Rivers, Domenic Perretta won the men’s 800m indoor Big Ten Championship. "This continued Penn State’s dominance in the 800m event as 2019 marked the fourth consecutive year a Penn State student-athlete has won the men’s 800m Big Ten Championship," according to GoPSUSports.com.
What impressed Vanriele was Gondak's character, his style of recruiting, and his personality as a whole. -- "I felt like that I would be valued there, I felt comfortable there, it was very inviting and welcoming," said Vanriele. "He made such a great effort in recruiting. He came down to watch me practice, came to a lot of my meets. I felt really comfortable with the team. They had a great team chemistry and team atmosphere on my visit. Not just in my group but all together. I am looking for a family unit." Gondak also wrote to Vanriele after each of her meets.
She expects Gondak's program to require faster times, but the Penn State training program is similar to what she's accustomed to. "It's a distance based program, but that will help my aerobic capacity. That's the value of cross country to build that. -- It will be a smooth but good transition," she said.
What sealed her decision was getting accepted into Penn State's prestigious The Schreyer Honors College. "When I got into the honors college as well, that's when I knew the academics would be where I wanted it also. -- Everything fell into place. Penn State is for me." She will be attending the Smeal College of Business.
Vanriele knows that Penn State will offer that perfect balance between academics, athletics and getting the full college experience, "all the while not sacrificing any of those elements." WE ARE!