Vince Esposito arrived in Shippensburg with his North Penn teammates, all of whom were fired up and ready to compete for state medals on the traditional Memorial Day weekend of the PIAA Track and Field Championships.
Except Esposito’s event — the pole vault — wasn’t on the schedule for another 48 hours. So he waited … waited … waited … then won.
“That sit was tough,” said Esposito, whose state winning jump of 15 feet not only catapulted him to the top of the podium, but also earned him honors as The Intelligencer’s Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year.
“I was able to go back to the room to relax, stay out of the wind and stay out of the cold. I watched the girls jump the day before (Friday) and wished they would have switched it.
“I really wanted to get going. You get nervous during the year before you jump, but once you get to the state championship, it’s more excitement than nervousness.”
While Esposito went out and seized the opportunity, coming on strong at the end of the season to put together not only a state-title winning jump, but also a district-championship vault, too, there may have been something else at work.
Call it karma.
Esposito battled injuries throughout his four years at North Penn, and that, had he not gone out and won gold, could have left him asking, “What if?”
He had a lower-back issue that ended up shooting pain down his left leg. The injury required seven months of physical therapy and prevented him from running his junior year. And he was quite a runner.
He set the freshman record in the 300 hurdles, breaking the mark set by Justin Bookheimer, who ran at Wake Forest. He was on the 4×400 relay that was seventh at indoor states as a sophomore.
“He did just about every event for us,” said North Penn coach Jay Jones. “He’s high jumped, pole vault, throws the javelin, runs hurdles, been on the 4×400, 4×100, and he could run a solid 800 if we asked him to. He just had some injuries.”
Like the broken ankle he suffered playing soccer, and the concussions he got from that sport, too. He eventually stopped playing soccer after his sophomore year.
Through it all, Esposito persevered. He earned a scholarship to the University of South Carolina to continue jumping while majoring in nuclear chemistry. There, Esposito said he wants to study fossil fuels and energy so he can help solve the country’s dependency on gasoline.
He will go south knowing that he accomplished all three of his goals this year: win districts, break the school record in the pole vault and win states. The record he broke — 15-3, set back in 1994 — fell at districts when Esposito cleared 15-4.
“I finally succeeded and did something I knew I was capable of,” said Esposito. “It was very frustrating going through the last two seasons (battling injuries), and not being able to do what I knew I could. Midseason, I started jumping well and the confidence came.”