Four-Time Indoor 800m Champ Vanriele Joins Circle of Greats

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Hours after making state history on the state-of-the-art indoor track at the Ocean Breeze Track Complex in Staten Island, Victoria Vanriele was in awe of the legendary New Jersey track and field individuals she may now call her peers. 

The names in the exclusive club to which she belongs were ticked off almost reverentially, prompting the Governor Livingston senior to recall, quite vividly, her first taste of serious track competition and how it motivated her to one day join that select group of esteemed athletes. 

"It was an extremely out-of-body experience that I had," Vanriele said of her race at the USATF Nationals in Sacramento, Calif., in July of 2016, the summer before her freshman year at Governor Livingston

"It was 105 degrees outside that day, terrible conditions. And I remember I had always come in second in every race and I wanted this one badly. That's when I got the 2:09. Before that my best was 2:13 so it was a four-second drop in those horrible conditions. I had never been in more pain than after that race, but it gave me confidence going into high school."

Vanriele has been riding that confidence ever since, and on Sunday inside the magnificent Ocean Breeze complex, she struck again, in the process forging her membership into auspicious company.

Running unchallenged, Vanriele won the NJSIAA Meet of Champions 800 meters in 2:09.73, and became just the fourth girl in state history to win four indoor MOCs titles in a single event.

Vanriele joined Nicole Sims of Plainfield (shot put, 1990-93), Melanie Thompson of Voorhees (3200m, 2008-11) and Olivia Baker of Columbia (400m, 2011-14) as the only female four-time MOCs winners. 

This Hall of Fame-worthy club also includes Nick Vena of Morristown (shot put, 2008-11), the only male four-time indoor MOCs winner.

"I know that the crop of runners who have come through New Jersey, and all the disciplines, have been amazing, like Joetta Clark Diggs and Ajee' Wilson and Olivia Baker," Vanriele said. "To be a part of that, to have my name amongst the greats, is amazing. It doesn't feel real.

"Just this morning I was recalling the Meet of Champs my freshman year, and never did I think then that this moment would be here. It's definitely special for me, but I'm waiting for it to sink in."

Vanriele's very first MOCs is worth remembering because she introduced herself to New Jersey by knocking off the reigning outdoor champion in the 800, Tenafly's Lexi Del Gizzo, who now competes for Georgetown.

Vanriele beat Del Gizzo that day, 2:13.63 to 2:14.74, and completed her first undefeated season against New Jersey's 800m competitors.

Victoria Vanriele as a fifth grader running at the Bubble. 

"Because I ran that 2:09 in eighth grade, I knew being competitive at the Meet of Champs was possible," Vanriele said. "I wasn't thinking win this and every one after for the next four years and make history type of thing. It was just go out and see what you can do.

"I did well my freshman year so there was always a lot of expectations, to see what I'd be able to do for the next three years. It's been difficult but I've definitely embraced it."

Embraced is being kind. Vanriele has smothered each and every opportunity to vanquish the competition. She is the proud owner of an undefeated record in the 800 meters against New Jersey competition, 30 races in all covering seven seasons, indoor and outdoor combined.

Vanriele recently broke her own facility record at the John Bennett Indoor Athletic Complex in Toms River -- affectionately called the "Bubble" -- when she won the Group 2 800m title in NJ#2 US#5 2:07.83, which was also an all-group meet record. 

Watch Vanriele secure her fourth straight indoor MOCs title

She claimed the indoor MOCs record when she ran 2:08.81 as a sophomore. And she may very well chase down the outdoor MOCs record before she closes her career at Governor Livingston. The meet record is 2:04.67, set in 2009 by Jill Smith of Southern Regional. Vanriele's outdoor PR of 2:05.15, logged at the Brooks PR Invitational last June in Seattle, was a whisker away from the record. 

"It's definitely been challenging to remain consistent," Vanriele said. "It's a little like a target on my back, which adds some pressure. But I have goals for myself and that creates pressure as well. All the support I've gotten from the running community, my town and my school has been outstanding. Just knowing I have people behind me rooting for me definitely helps get through all this."

Vanriele, a Penn State commit, said she plans to expand her expertise to the 400 this spring in order to prepare for her college workload and solidify her middle distance foundation. But she'll always have an eye on the 800m and anyone who considers themselves a challenger to her throne. 

After all, she has a 30-race win streak against New Jersey 800 runners to defend. And she has a fourth straight outdoor MOCs crown to pursue, which would make her just the eighth girl to accomplish that feat.

But perhaps more importantly to Vanriele, she has some records to chase down first before she departs Berkeley Heights for Happy Valley.

"I think more about time and my goals," Vanriele said. "My parents and coaches have, since the beginning, helped me make it about time because it's something you can control, whereas you can't control other competitors and what they do. That's what has been motivating me to improve the past four years. 

"And it's not over. I have to keep working over these next few months because everyone has the possibility of dropping time. I certainly have incentive to finish what I started."