BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ -  Gov. Livingston junior Victoria Vanriele ran a personal best time of 2:05.43, more than three seconds ahead of the runner up to capture her sixth Meet of Champions 800 title over her high school career to date. Vanriele ran this race less than a second off the fastest time ever clocked.

"Winning the 800 at the MOC is especially meaningful because I improved my times over each of the three indoor seasons and over each of the three outdoor seasons," said Vanriele. "Winning is a function of who you're competing against. So, knowing that my winning time of 2:05.43 was the fastest for any state championship in the country is gratifying. I feel that I'm representing the state at a high level."

She was also recently named the Gatorade Girls Track and Field Athlete of the Year for the second consecutive year.  This award recognizes "the most outstanding high school athletes for their athletic excellence, academic achievement, and exemplary character." 

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Vanriele does not take her success for granted. She knows that she is as good as the training she puts into the sport. "Track has taught me to be grateful and gracious," she said. "I have to appreciate every victory because future victories aren’t guaranteed. Because I win a race one year does not guarantee that I win it the next, or that I will even improve. I am not entitled to anything, and as a result, I am required to put in the hard work and maintain dedication."

This year, in addition to coaching for more speed endurance and sharpness, Vanriele is being heavily recruited by top colleges in the nation. GL head Track and Field coach Dan Guyton and coach Lisa Dhaibar have played pivotal roles in the process.

All through her success, Vanriele remains humble. "She always thanks people instantly when they congratulate her," said Gov. Livingston track coach Lisa Dhaibar.

"Victoria has always been a role model for athletes on our team.  Many times kids are in awe of her, but Victoria is very down to earth and approachable, befriending her teammates," said Dhaibar. "Victoria leads in a quiet way, by setting a tone and an example for other athletes.  She stays late to stretch, she demonstrates discipline, and pushes through a tough workout, bad weather, and tiredness."  

Also important to know, "She's also intelligent and fun to be around," said Dhaibar. "Victoria has become very mature over the past three years.  She is now such an eloquent and articulate speaker, she puts a lot of thought into her decisions, and realizes her tremendous gifts.  She strives to meet her goals, and puts in effort to analyze how to fulfill them."  

In addition to her individual success, Vanriele likes to be part of a team. "We asked her to anchor the 4x8 relay at Penn Relays this year. She had qualified for the mile, but Victoria chose to run with her team instead.  She also ran an amazing PR 53 second split in the 4x4 to close the Group 2 Spring State Championships, qualifying her team for MOC.  She runs so fearlessly and selflessly when she knows there are other girls counting on her performance."

For her success both on and off the track, Victoria Vanriele has been named the Valairco Heating and Cooling Highlander Athlete of the Week.

Below are comments from Victoria: 

TAPinto: How do you train to peak for big races?

Victoria: At the beginning of the season, I identify my most competitive races. My training is structured so that I do my hardest workouts during the weeks when I'm not running in the most competitive races.  So for some weeks, my meet times are relatively slow because in those weeks I trained the hardest and my legs are heavy. But, the times are good enough for a win. For the most competitive races, I pull back on the heavy training, so that my legs could be more rested.  My tapered training began the week before the MOC, and continued for the Brooks PR Invitational, which was a championship held last Saturday among 10 nationally ranked runners where I took second with a personal best time of 2:05.15, and will end with the USATF Under 20 National Championships to be held next weekend in Florida.  

TAPinto: What was your favorite victory this year?

I had many favorite victories. One was winning the 4x800 relay with my teammates to qualify to race at Penn Relays in April. Another favorite was winning the indoors county sprint medley relay, which was a surprise victory. My favorite individual victory this year is definitely the outdoor MOC. That was also a win for the school and all who support me in competing. That was the best way for me to thank them and make them proud.

TAPinto: As a junior, how is the recruiting process going for you?

Victoria: From last September to now, I've been building relationships with coaches through regular calls and emails.  Once the school year ends, I will begin to prioritize the factors that are most important to me and select five colleges for my official visits. I've already taken some unofficial visits, where I met the coaches and their athletes. After corresponding with coaches for months, I'm dreading having to tell them I don't think the college will be a good fit for me.

TAPinto: How do your high school track coaches assist you in the recruiting process?

Victoria: My track coaches have been tremendously supportive of me.  Coach Dhaibar gathers information from GL alums about their collegiate experiences to help me understand what I could expect when running at the college level.  Our head coach Dan Guyton takes recruiting calls and stays on top of the emails and snail mails that come through the school. Also, both coaches facilitate my attending invitationals so that I could get valuable racing experience and visibility. Most importantly, they provide a reliable training structure for me to excel and Coach Dhaibar gives me psychological encouragement. I'm so appreciative of my coaches.

TAPinto: How has track affected your personal growth and development?

Victoria: Through my involvement in track, I'm developing patience. I've come to learn that it may take a while to realize the fruits of hard labor.  For example, there are times when the harder I work, the slower I get. I know now that I have to put in the hard work upfront and over time, then, through resting, my body will adapt and be ready for high performance.

I'm also learning to be attentive to what my body is telling me. Many college coaches have told me that they encourage their athletes to regularly communicate to them how they're feeling so that the training could be somewhat tailored to their needs. I'm paying attention to delayed reactions to certain workouts, because it often takes a day or two to feel the full impact of hard workouts.

Most importantly, track has taught me to be grateful and gracious. I have to appreciate every victory because future victories aren’t guaranteed. Because I win a race one year does not guarantee that I win it the next, or that I will even improve. I am not entitled to anything, and as a result, I am required to put in the hard work and maintain dedication.

TAPinto: What are your plans for the summer?

Victoria: I will recover for a couple of weeks before I resume training. I will actively work on college admissions--host at-home visits by coaches, fill out admissions applications, and visit colleges.  I'm blessed to have many options because of my athletic and academic profile, but I have to put in a lot of work to ensure that I make the right decision for me.  

TAPinto: What are your athletic goals for your senior year?

Victoria: I would love to obtain the 800 cut to qualify for the Olympic Trials. For 2016, it was a 2:02. That would be a far reach for me, because once you get to a certain personal best time you can spend the next year just trying to get back to where you ended the previous year.  But, it gives me an objective for continued hard training. I would probably have to adjust my training somewhat to achieve that goal.

TAPinto: Do you still play your musical instruments?

Victoria: I take private lessons in piano and the saxophone. My teacher is very understanding. She accepts that track is my priority and structures my lessons around my track schedule. So for the Meet of Champions, which was held at 2 pm, I had my music lesson at 10 am, instead of the regular 4 pm. Also, she offers me opportunities to participate in music competitions, but is satisfied with me only doing her recitals.

TAPinto: What is your favorite class and teacher?

Victoria: My classes this year were all great for different reasons.  My teachers helped me to obtain a variety of skills that I will need to be successful in college.  I thank them all for their dedication.

TAPinto: Who is your role model?

Victoria: My parents are my role models. The time and effort that they put into helping me pursue my dreams encourage me to execute everything that they have taught me to make them proud. I learn so much for them and I am forever grateful for their commitment to supporting me in everything I go after.

TAPinto: What would you tell young athletes about the level of  hard work and commitment necessary to stay at the top of your game?

Victoria: I would tell young athletes that sports is one of many great avenues to experience life, but you have to work hard and smart to excel and be rewarded.  You have to train consistently; you can't goof off at practice and expect to be great on game day; you need to spend time understanding your sport and why you are doing certain training;  and, you have to sacrifice socializing when you compete at a high level. You have to accept that when you are at the top of your game, your sport will consume your life.

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Valairco Heating & Cooling is the proud sponsor of the Highlander Athlete of the Week. Kevin McHugh, Valairco Owner and President and Berkeley Heights resident, is an alumni of Gov. Livingston High School.

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