BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - What is a runner who is poised to break more records to do when her senior season is derailed by a pandemic? If she is senior Victoria Vanriele, two time New Jersey Gatorade Girls Track and Field Player of the Year, you keep a positive attitude and just keep running.
“I am disappointed that I won’t be able to compete for my final season, but I am really happy that I was able to finish out my winter season with a state championship title,” Vanriele said. “This season will definitely be memorable just because of the way the pandemic has shaped me, really put my values in check.”
Vanriele has had a major impact on Governor Livingston since her first days as a Highlander. A scholar athlete, she has made the most of her time at the school.
Not only has she been a three-season athlete, running Cross Country and competing in Track and Field in the winter and spring, Vanriele has maintained a high level of academic achievement. She is also an active member of academic and service clubs at the school and an inspiration to her fellow athletes.
“Victoria is a supportive team member. I remember when she cheered me on at sectionals. That small action made a big impact on that race for me. She’s overall such a great member of the track team and makes a huge impact not only on the meets but also [the athletes],” said track newcomer freshman Kendall Torres.
In the time off from this season, Vanriele has still been active. “I was able to use my abilities to give back to the community, submitting videos for Mr. [Michael] Skara’s Backyard 50K to raise money for first responders and to lead a workout over Zoom for my middle school club team.”
She added, “I’m competing in virtual meets and using the time to focus on my studies as well.”
Academics are equally important to Vanriele. She received offers from Ohio State University, Penn State University, LSU, and the University of Pennsylvania. But ultimately, she chose Penn State University.
Vanriele explained, “Choosing where to commit was difficult, as college sets you up for the rest of your life, so this was not a decision that my family and I took lightly.”
She narrowed her list down to two schools. “In the end it was close between Penn State and UPenn, but after getting into Penn State’s Schreyer Honors College, I knew Penn State was the best fit for me.”
She verbally committed to Penn State University at the Schreyer Honors College in October and solidified her decision when she signed her National Letter of Intent in November on the first day of the National Signing period surrounded by family, friends, and coaches.
“Seeing all the people who have supported me throughout the years all in one place was really moving,” she stated.
“Having my fifth grade gym teacher who got me into running, my club coach who developed me all of middle school, and all the administrators at GL who have given me all I’ve needed to be successful there really meant a lot.”
Vanriele’s success hasn’t come without its challenges. In the summer of 2019, she participated in the Under 20 U.S. Championships in Miramar, Florida. She describes the experience as “excruciatingly hot” the days she competed and it was her last meet of a long season.
She began the day racing in the preliminary round which would send her to the final race the next day. “I am not accustomed to it because for most of the high school season, there is simply one round for my primary event [the 800m].”
She also felt a lot of pressure going into the meet because she was starting to get recruited by colleges. “I embraced the challenge; however, my efforts did not lead to the results I desired.”
She did not see the meet as a failure because she was able to learn from it. “I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to compete on a large state like that, and it prepared me for college running where racing multiple rounds back to back days is expected.”
The meet also helped her decide where to continue her track career. “It also allowed me to see how different college coaches reacted to their athletes having a poor performance, which impacted me in deciding on a university.”
Vanriele is already an accomplished runner with many titles under her belt. In addition to breaking the high school facility record at Ocean Breeze in February, Vanriele went on to make Meet of Champs history.
“To be the first in New Jersey Girls’ Track and Field Meet of Champions history to win four consecutive 800m title was one of my greatest accomplishments, ” she said.
Daniel Guyton, Vanriel’s high school track coach, is extremely proud of Vanriele and her accomplishment, but he knows she is going to keep dominating the sport. “We all couldn’t be happier, it’s been a long journey for us, and it’s not over.”
She has a set of goals that she wants to accomplish when she starts her college career. “My goals when I go to Penn State are to help the team win Big Ten Conference titles, win individual conference titles, to be a part of Penn Relay-winning relays, to be a National All-American and a point scorer for team titles at NCAAs,” Vanriele stated. “During my time at Penn State, I also aspire to be an NCAA champion.”
Unfortunately she was not able to run with her teammates during what would have been her final season as a Highlander athlete. But Vanriele is keeping an open mind.
“While this is not the finale I expected, it’s the one I got and I’m trying to make the best of it. I am preparing for college and excited to start up training for my freshman season starting this summer.”