West Holmes senior Vinny DeFelice bagged his big buck earlier this month. On Saturday, Oct. 29 in Pickerington, the veteran cross country runner bagged his third berth at the state meet.
A fully healthy DeFelice ran a very measured out race, doing exactly what he wanted to do to grab the seventh place spot overall and easily advance to the Div. II state meet, with the top 20 runners moving on.
After qualifying for state as a freshman and sophomore, DeFelice saw that run come to an end last year as a junior, when he got sick right after districts. While he qualified for regionals, he was nowhere near full health when he ran in regionals, and was well back in the pack with a very poor time by his standards.
This year DeFelice was healthy and ready to prove he belonged at state, and his head coach Kevin Beachy said he knew why.
“He bagged his deer early this year so he wasn’t in a tree stand out in the cold getting sick,” Beachy said playfully following DeFelice’s run.”
Indeed, DeFelice confirmed he had bagged a seven-point buck early in the hunting season as compared to late in the hunting season last year. However, a very focused DeFelice was more than ready to right the wrongs that plagued him last year.
“This feels really great, and I felt like I ran a really good race from start to finish today,” DeFelice said. “It fells really good to get back to state after being sick and not making it last year. This race is definitely encouraging heading into next weekend.”
The West Holmes senior said that he had the state meet ion the back of his mind all year after failing to earn a bid last year. It helped motivate him and despite having some minor dings throughout this fall, the season was all about this one moment at regionals, where he was determined to exact his revenge on the Pickerington course and the Div. II field.
“I was very discouraged after last year, and that made me determined to get back to state, especially because this is my senior year,” DeFelice said. “I stated a little harder than I normally do, but I was still nice and relaxed. I kind of eased my way up to where I wanted to be after the first mile and wanted to finish in that eight to 10 range once I settled in.”
He did better than that, as he put on a terrific kick over the final 500 meters to track down Johnny Lukins of Granville, whom he zipped by at the wire to take seventh place overall. His time of 16:39 was a solid entry on a tough track. It was 20 seconds faster than he had ever run at Pickerington before.
“I knew I was going to be in, but I still wanted to pass the kid in front of me,” DeFelice said of his final push, which shows exactly how competitive he is. “But first or 24th, that is all that matters, so I’ll take it.”
The race was won by Zach Kreft of Buckeye Valley, who was simply awesome in winning in 15:29.
“That’s pretty crazy,” DeFelice said of Kreft’s winning effort. “He was just out of here, and nobody was going to catch him. At the two-mile marker, Kreft and runner-up Taylor Hopkins of Heath were side-by-side. Then Kreft simply left him in his rear view mirror.
Beachy said watching DeFelice focus in the last month of the season was very gratifying. DeFelice placed fifth at a very rugged Ohio Cardinal Conference meet, then ran really well at districts to capture third.
Next week we will look to make it a nice, one month block of really impressive outings,” Beachy said of the recent run of success. “Vinny is finishing strong at the right time of the year. Everything we do is working toward this moment in the season, and Vinny has put himself in a great place.”
Then Beachy chided DeFelice for finally putting it together on the tree stand in deer season as the real reason for his successful effort as of late.
DeFelice said now that he is returning to state, he has two goals in his sites. The first is to make the podium, which is the top 16 runners, and the second is to earn All-Ohio honors as a top-24 placer.
As long as he stays out of the tree stand, he certainly stands a good chance.