BY JEFF FALK
There’s riding off into the sunset. There’s going out with a bang.
And then there’s the way Joe Vedilago went out.
Vedilago, a senior at California University of Pennsylvania, recently wrapped up a solid Division Two collegiate track and field career with perhaps his best athletic moment ever, at the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference’s championship meet at Bloomsburg. Running in the final race of his career – the 1600-meter relay – Vedilago, a 2013 graduate of Northern Lebanon, capped it all off with a scintillating and dramatic performance while running the anchor leg.
With the league championship on the line, Vedilago was the fifth final-leg runner to receive his baton. But when he did it was like Vedilago was shot out of a cannon, as he just took off, passed the other four anchors ahead of him and before just edging the Slippery Rock contingent by .09 of a second at the finish line.
California University of Pennsylvania’s Jae’len Means, Brett George, Aaron Morgan and Vedilago posted a winning time of 3:17.26. For Means and Vedilago, it was their second consecutive PSAC championship in the event.
“I got it (the baton) in fifth place and I just went,” said Vedilago. “I had my eyes on first place the whole time. I saw him (the leader) and I said, ‘I’m going to get it. It’s our’s. I’m not going to lose it.’
“With our third leg guy, he put me in a good spot,” continued Vedilago. “When I’m an anchor leg, I just go get it. That’s how I am. My whole team was yelling and screaming. And everybody just swarmed me and threw me into the air. They were excited, and the whole thing.”
Cal U entered the event as the top seed, but with regular second leg Francis Jajua out with an injury. The Vulcans trailed the whole way, right up to the very end.
“We were behind, in fifth place,” said Vedilago. “Our second-leg guy got hurt and we ended up throwing in a freshman distance guy. He did his part and did what he had to do.
“Going into the race, we were ranked first with our regular guy,” sadded Vedilago. “But it wasn’t a lost cause. It was just our desire to win, and because it was my last year. We had to put it all out there. We had even more motivation.”
A sprinter in high school and by trade, Vedilago eventually matriculated toward the open 400 in college. Vedilago, who is scheduled to graduate with a degree in criminal justice later this month, has been competing in track and field, in one form or another, for the last 11 years.
“I came a long way,” said Vedilago. “I would give all the glory to God. That’s why I do it.”