Hampton senior Ava Vitiello tracks down D-I scholarship

Saturday, December 17, 2022 | 11:01 AM

For the longest time, Hampton’s Ava Vitiello believed a Division I scholarship was out of her reach.

But she kept running and eventually caught up to one.

“I never really thought I was going to be D-I athlete,” she said. “It was never a dream of mine. It kind of just happened really fast.”

Vitiello knows a lot about being fast. The fleet-footed senior has committed to D-I Northeastern, where she will run cross country and track. She visited Northeastern in September and picked the Colonial Athletic Association school over George Washington, William & Mary and Boston U.

“I really liked the team environment, and the coaches are really great,” she said. “It’s a great school for academics and athletics, and I love Boston. It all just made a lot of sense for me.”

Vitiello is coming off a cross country season in which she placed fifth at the 2022 WPIAL Class 2A championships and 16th in the state while helping to lead Hampton to a perfect 10-0 record in Section 4-2A and the program’s first section title.

On the track, Vitiello is one of the top milers in Hampton history, placing fifth in the 1,600 at the 2021 WPIAL Class AAA track and field championships.

She ran a personal-best 5 minutes, 1.14 seconds at the PIAA championships during an 18th-place finish and has her sights this spring on Hampton’s 1,600 school record of 4:57.42 set by Gina Alm in 2014. Vitiello began indoor track season at Hampton earlier this month.

“She has that hunger for the track,” Hampton cross country and track coach Heather Dietz said. “She has done phenomenal in cross country, but I’m really looking forward to this track season with her and seeing where she can go.”

Vitiello moved from New Jersey prior to her freshman year and began running cross country only because Hampton didn’t offer field hockey, her then-favorite fall sport.

“Watching her develop as a runner and get stronger and gain that confidence and grow over the past four years has been something pretty special,” Dietz said.

Vitiello saved her best for last in cross country.

She combined with sophomore standout Kevyn Fish to form a potent 1-2 punch for the Talbots, who despite having only eight runners on the roster placed fifth at WPIAL Class 2A championships, their best finish since 2012. Seniors Teresa Grimm, Adrianna Grimm and Kendall Solkovy, junior Lydia Bailey and sophomore Abby Hall each finished in the top 75 at the WPIAL championships. Sophomore Cara Herock also contributed during the section-title season.

“It was an amazing senior year,” Vitiello said. “I don’t think I could have asked for a better season. We had such a great time, and I think everyone was really happy with the outcome.”

Said Dietz, “Even though there are only eight of them, if everybody does their job on the course, then great things happen.”

Vitiello never expected so many great things to happen when she stepped on the course at the 2019 Red, White & Blue Invitational at Schenley Park for her first cross country meet. She would hit the tape 12th in the freshman race.

“I placed in the top-25, so I got a T-shirt and it was so exciting,” she said. “It was my first race and I felt amazing. I was like, ‘Oh my gosh. I won this shirt.’ It was a great feeling. Every time I do something that I’m proud of with running, I feel that same way.”

She still has the T-shirt, and three-plus years later, she also has a D-I scholarship.

“Everyone in my life really helped me get here,” she said. “… Overall, looking back, I’m just really grateful that they really pushed me to be the best I can be.”


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