When he started to run competitively as a freshman — going out for cross country to prepare for the basketball season — Perry Hall senior standout Vince Ciattei said he didn't have much success.
But there was something about running that simply had him.
By his sophomore year, Ciattei was competing in cross country, indoor and outdoor track.
"It was, 'Well, if I wanted to be really competitive, I need to go all in,'" he said.
The best advice Ciattei received came from his coach, Marilyn Bevans, who told him you only get out of running what you put into it. Ciattei has put in the time, and the results are showing.
At the Baltimore County meet as a junior, he had the lead before cramping up and finishing fifth. This season, he stayed behind a pack and then made his move later, taking first with a meet-record time of 16:05.1.
After placing seventh at states in a tough Class 4A field last season, he hopes to improve this Saturday in the state meet at Hereford.
In addition to running, Ciattei is a member of Perry Hall's jazz band and wind ensemble, having played the Alto saxophone since middle school. He maintains a 4.0 grade point average and is hoping to determine where he runs in college in the near future.
What do you enjoy most about running?
What I like about it is it's a really complicated sport training-wise. Everyone thinks you just go out and run. But if you really want to reach a high level, there's a lot that you have to pay attention to. But, at the same time, it is a simple equation. If you work hard, no matter how much talent you have, you are eventually going to improve and get better. So that's what I've always liked about it, knowing whatever I'm putting into it is eventually going to pay off.
The state meet is just about here. How do you feel about it?
I'm really excited. But there's a lot of good competition in Class 4A. It's always very strong. So I think it's going to take a smart race. Not necessarily the fastest time ever, which is sometimes my downfall — I always want to run a fast time. But here I may have to sacrifice that time for placement. It's going to be a good race. The other divisions, too — 2A and 3A — there's all some great individual and team competitions.
How does the discipline required to be a successful runner help in other aspects of your life?
It definitely helps with time management. I still have trouble with that sometimes, only because I'm busy with school and other things. But it gives you sort of a focus. When you're focused on, 'How are my workouts going to be this week? What's my goal for the week?,' you do the same thing for other things. I think it makes you a better person in general because it gives you that drive that you can apply to everything.
What is the day before a big race like for you?
Back when I first started getting serious about running, I think I would dwell a little too much on a big race and by the time it happened, I was mentally kind of too nervous. So I would have nerve problems and stomach problems. So now, I know I have to kind of relax and trust the training and be like 'Listen, you can do this.' The more I train, the less doubt I have. I know anyone on any given day can have a great race, but I always try to be consistent and trust the training.
How important is the mental aspect of running?
I think that's a very big part of it. I could go out and run 100 miles a week, but if I just couldn't be there on race day, nothing good is going to come out of it. So I try to be a smart runner training wise. I try to really pay attention to what I do so I remember what works, and I think that's helped me with these big meets because I can go into them with a plan and my coaches definitely help me with that.
On days when you don't feel like training, how do you motivate yourself?
I just think about racing. The hardest time to put in the training is definitely over the summer when you don't have a race to look forward to the next week or something to look forward to. So you just have to think that everyone else is out there doing it. I love the competition of the races — both the team aspect and the individual aspect. So putting in the work over the summer, you've got to remember that feeling of the county meet and stuff like that.
When you're in the midst of a difficult stretch in a race, what do you do to help overcome it?
It's hard. I just try to clear my mind and think about what has gotten me to this point. Holding on to someone is easier — I can say, 'Just hold on to him for the race and trust your finish.' Last year at the county meet, I went out in the lead and cramped up and there was really nothing I could do there. So when you're in the lead, it's a little different. But any time, I just try to focus on 'OK, this 16 minutes may seem long, but 10 minutes from now you'll be finished.'
What's it like being a senior in high school?
It's passing by really fast. It kind of feels like I just started training over the summer and it's already the week of states. It's been a little more stressful than I would have liked, mainly because of the college decision. I'm probably going to be making my decision pretty soon where I will be running. So after my college decision is made, I know I'll be able to relax a little more and enjoy my senior year.
What colleges are you considering?
My top three are Yale, Virginia Tech and Georgetown. I took official visits to all three and I liked different aspects of each, so it's really going to come down to balancing those positives of each school. I think whatever decision I make, I'll try to make the best of it. It's going to be a hard choice, but what I'm trying to think is I'm fortunate enough to have those choices — three really good schools.
What do you plan to study?
It really depends on the school. Virginia Tech, I'd probably go into engineering. Georgetown, it would be something in business or economics. That's another thing I have to weigh. With Virginia Tech, I could try engineering, and if I don't like it I still have other options. At Georgetown, there is no engineering, so it's a balance there to consider, too.