Local track and field athlete, Vitella, has drawn attention at the NCAA Division I level

By: Mark Vest | C&G Newspapers | Published April 11, 2014

 Pictured is current Oakland University and former Warren Cousino track and field athlete Gino Vitella.

Pictured is current Oakland University and former Warren Cousino track and field athlete Gino Vitella.

Photo courtesy of Oakland University athletics

If you would have asked current Oakland University track and field athlete Gino Vitella what sport was most likely to earn him an NCAA Division I scholarship when he was a freshman at Warren Cousino, his answer would likely have been football.

But after joining Cousino’s track and field team as a sophomore, Vitella discovered something — he can throw a discus really far. And while football may have offered some perks, as well, Vitella’s realization that it “felt amazing to watch that thing fly so far in the air,” may have gone a long way toward switching his focus to track and field.

Vitella turned his talent into a life-changing opportunity, as he went on to earn a scholarship at Oakland.

Vitella’s post-high school accomplishments include earning an opportunity to compete at the USA Junior Outdoor Track and Field Championships in 2013, where he finished in eighth place; breaking Oakland’s school records in the discus and shot put; earning multiple top-six finishes in the shot put; and being selected as the Horizon League Field Athlete of the Week earlier this year.

“It’s like a dream coming true,” said Vitella, whose hometown is Sterling Heights. “Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve always wanted to compete on a high level. At first, it wasn’t for track and field; it was football. I found my love for track and field in my sophomore year of high school. It was my backup for football. I ended up falling in love with it — made my goals as a high school athlete, and then getting recruited by Oakland is (an) overall wonderful experience to be part of.”

Aside from support he has received from his family, teammates and coaches, including those at Cousino, who he said, “pushed me to get to the next level,” Vitella offered some other ideas as to what has allowed him to make it as far as he has.

“Probably the key to making it this far is out-work the other guy,” Vitella said. “If I could give any advice to someone who wants to be in my position, I’d say, ‘Just keep working at it. It can get frustrating at times. Just remember the overall goals.’ That’s what keeps me driving, is remember my overall goals. One of the things I learned is you can’t be lazy. If you work hard, the results will come. Surround yourself with guys that push you to do better and better. Don’t surround yourself with the wrong people.”

Vitella’s goal for his team is to win a Horizon League championship before graduating from the program. On an individual level, as impressive as earning a Division I college scholarship was, there is still one big goal remaining that would provide Vitella with perhaps an even bigger dream come true.

“Long-term, 2016 is coming up — the next Olympics,” he said. “That would be the ideal situation if I could compete in the trials, place really high, and go overseas to compete. Anything like that is beyond what anybody could ever imagine. It’s the biggest stage in track and field. I’m really looking forward to the day I can say I’m an Olympian.”

While the possibility of being an Olympian may be a good enough reason in and of itself to be excited about what the future could hold, there are also plenty of other reasons for Vitella to be optimistic as he moves forward in his career at Oakland.

“I’m extremely excited,” said Vitella, who is a sophomore and majoring in engineering. “The sky’s the limit for me. I would like to graduate with at least a 3.0 and go on to a major engineering firm. As far as track goes, maybe walk out NCAA champion, All-American. I’m ecstatic to think about what I can do for this program. We have a very young team here. The future is bright for the whole team. I’m really excited to grow up with this group, as a team. Win a championship — that’s the goal.”