When it comes to academics, only the best will do for Perry Hall rising senior Vince Ciattei.
He's always been an A student, and when he began visiting colleges, it was only natural for him to gravitate toward some of the biggest names in the region, including the University of Virginia and Princeton University.
Ciattei's dream was also to run track at the college level, but as recently as a year ago that seemed somewhat like a long shot when he only competed in half of the 2011 season on the Gators' junior varsity.
Everything changed this spring.
As a member of the varsity, the 2012 Northeast Booster Reporter Athlete of the Year captured Class 4A state championships in the 1,600 and 3,200 meters.
The 5-foot-11, 148-pound Ciattei also shined for the Perry Hall indoor track and cross country teams while carrying a 4.0 cumulative grade-point average and taking three Advanced Placement classes, participating in the Spanish Honor Society and playing the saxophone in the school's wind ensemble and jazz band.
"It definitely looks like he's going Ivy League," said Perry Hall athletic director Bob Hruz, who coached track at the school for seven years. "If he is able to shave another five or six seconds off (the 1,600 time of 4:15.91), he may get some of the West Coast's track powerhouses, like a USC or Stanford, interested. I think he has a chance to be the best runner Perry Hall ever had. Vince has done some amazing things."
Ciattei prevailed in the 3,200 meters state championship on May 25 at Morgan State in 9:21.80, which beat runner-up William Bertrand by nearly four seconds.
Ciattei's time also broke Perry Hall's 34-year-old school record by seven seconds and reduced his personal mark by 16 seconds.
The next day, the 18-year-old Ciattei posted the fastest time in the state in the 1,600, setting yet another school and personal record.
Not a bad two days, considering he didn't even qualify for either event in the state championships last season during a season split between and varsity and JV because coaches wanted to bring him along slowly.
Ciattei said he just put too much pressure on himself during the 2011 cross country and 2012 indoor track seasons.
And it showed in the results.
"I have no doubt that a lot of people had no idea who I was until outdoor track this spring," Ciattei said. "I learned from what went wrong and what went well in cross country and indoor track. I found the strategy for meets, like how I was going to warm up and how I was going to peak and train at the right time."
Ciattei went undefeated in the 1,600 this spring, winning the Howard Country Track Classic, the Pikesville Invitational and regional and county titles.
Ciattei also put up some more impressive results in the New Balance Nationals in Greensboro, N.C., on June 14. He won the 1,600 in a personal-best 4:15.10 and the 3,200 in a meet-record 9:20.68.
"He is a very bright kid," said Perry Hall cross country coach Marilyn Bevans, who also coaches the Gators distance runners in outdoor track and field. "He really keeps you honest. You have to answer a lot of questions from him."
This past winter, Ciattei anchored the Class 4A state championship 3,200 relay team. The group also won county and region titles.
Ciattei called his 1,600 and 800 individual indoor results "disappointing."
His best finish came in the regionals, when he placed third in the 3,200 and 800.
"I tried to do too much," Ciattei said of indoor meets. "I would run in four events and by the third one, I was done. I couldn't recover."
Perry Hall indoor track coach Brian Moen has no doubt Ciattei will have a blockbuster indoor season next winter.
"He already has three state championships," Moen said. "He has the physical talent, but the mental edge is what separates him from others. He is very smart kid and so mentally tough. "
Ciattei doubled his mileage total to 40 per week last summer to prepare for cross country season and it paid off, big time. He won a region championship, took fifth in the county and seventh in the state.
"I knew I had to increase my mileage in order to compete at that top level," Ciattei said. "I committed myself and I wanted to be in that top group. I am the type of person, if I start myself in something, I really want to see it through and really do the best I can."