Emporium’s Olivett enjoying unexpected Div. I career at Lafayette

Vinny Olivett gears up to launch during the pole vault event while competing for Lafayette College.

The Borough of Emporium is home to roughly 1,900 residents. The town may be small in terms of its population, but the people in this small Cameron County hub have some of the biggest hearts in the area. The people of Emporium are quick to talk about their pride in Cameron County Red Raider Athletics, and for good reason.

Over the last few years, the school that graduates only around fifty students a year has helped send three athletes to Division I schools to continue their athletic careers. Each of these three men were members of the 2014-2015 Cameron County Red Raiders boys basketball team, one of the best teams in school history.

Adam Shaffer, Nate Sestina, and Vincenzo (Vinny) Olivett are three current Division I athletes who grew up in the Emporium community. While Sestina and Shaffer were recruited by Division I programs, Olivett made his way onto the track and field roster at Lafayette College as a walk- on. Initially, he attended the liberal arts college in Easton, Pennsylvania in order to receive a world class education. However, what he soon realized was an unfulfilled urge to compete again.

“I played basketball my whole life and had been doing track and field for several years as well,” he recalled. “I missed being a member of a team and competing in the sports I loved. I grew up with a competitive group of kids in Emporium, and I was not ready to give up that competitiveness just yet.”

Olivett walked onto the team late in his freshman year of college as a long jumper, and he competed as a long jumper primarily as a freshman and sophomore, but he saw an opportunity to help better the team by shifting to pole vault, so that is what Olivett did.

“We had a great group of long jumpers recruited to Lafayette my sophomore year as well as this past season,” he said. “My coach asked me if I would be willing to give it a try because we only had two vaulters on our team. I decided that although I have never done the event, this would be a great way to contribute to the team. It has been frustrating learning a new event so late in my track and field career, but it has also been rewarding and I can see and feel the improvement over the last couple of years.”

While Lafayette was his school of choice because of its highly regarded academic programs, the decision to go to school there was one that later allowed him to become an athlete at the Division I level.

“I think it is important for me to note that I am certainly not a power five conference track and field athlete,” Olivett said. “The fact that I got in academically is solely the reason that the track opportunity presented itself. I hope that knowledge of that contingency can guide the way young athletes from rural PA approach academics.”

And while Olivett is known for his great athletic ability, he is just as proud of his hard work in the classroom.

“At Lafayette, I’ve been able to steadily balance academics and athletics, competing on the track while gaining teaching and research experience. Through a Lafayette alumni network I’ve been able to research at Duke University this summer which has been fascinating,” he said.

As a neuroscience major, Olivett hopes to go to graduate school to continue his education in the field and hopefully then later teach at a liberal arts college where he can also research as a professor.

“I’m attracted to the environment of liberal arts colleges because of the emphasis on mentorship and teaching, supplement to research opportunities,” he said. “I find the climate to be somewhat parallel to the close-knit atmosphere that I was a part of at CCHS. ”

When reflecting on his career in sports, he spoke highly of being a part of the Red Raiders basketball program for four years.

“We had some really good teams and definitely helped show the future varsity players that we can compete with any team. A defining moment was beating Ridgway on a three-quarter court buzzer beater than went viral,” he recalled. Beating Ridgway did not seem attainable for a long time, but winning that game was huge for our culture and confidence for the next couple years as we eventually made the state playoffs next season.”

After his college career concludes, he plans to take a step back from track and field, but not removing himself entirely from the sport.

“Working in academia will keep me busy, but hopefully I can eventually return to the sport to coach at the youth or high school level,” he said. “It would be rewarding to share my experience with young athletes who are trying to improve.”

He credits his parents, Jen and Tim, in addition to his brother, Tony as the ones who inspired him most.

“Both my mom and my dad are next level incredible in every aspect,” he said. “I’ve looked up to my brother Tony both academically and athletically. My family has been instrumental in guiding me to where I am presently.”

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