Kearny’s versatile performer Van Riper earns HCTCA award

Victoria Van Riper never participated in track and field before her freshman year at Kearny High School.

“I started hurdling as a freshman,” Van Riper said. “I begged my coach (Al Perez) to let me try it. I saw other athletes do it and it looked cool and a lot of fun. So I wanted to try it.”

Perez didn’t hesitate, because Van Riper, already a solid soccer player as a freshman, had all the abilities to be a solid track and field contributor.

“She really is versatile,” Perez said. “She had a good junior year, but this year, she took it to another level.”

Van Riper’s dedication was evident.

“She went to the weight room at least twice a week before school started in the morning,” Perez said. “(Kearny girls’ soccer coach Vin) Almeida (now the athletic director) initiated a strength and conditioning program and we took advantage of it.”

Perez said that Van Riper had another advantage going in her favor.

“She’s incredibly intelligent,” Perez said. “She got like a 1500 on her SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Tests). She’s very bright and you can see it in coaching, teaching all the technical events.”

Van Riper didn’t reach 1500 on the SATs. But she did get 1490 and had a weighted grade point average of 5.2. She was ranked No. 3 in the Kearny Class of 2017.

Perez said that Van Riper competed in six different events during her career at Kearny _ the high jump, the triple jump, the long jump, the 100-meter hurdles, the 400-meter hurdles and the 400-meter dash.

“She was also able to make modifications in the way she competed,” Perez said. “Every day, she tried to build on what she had done and tried hard to master it. That was the key with the technical events. It takes someone with intelligence to do what she did. Plus, she was hard working and committed. She was a 12-season athlete, with soccer, indoor track and outdoor track.”

Last week, Van Riper was rewarded with her commitment to track and field by receiving the Alfred Bundies Scholarship at the Hudson County Track Coaches Association awards dinner.The scholarship was donated by the family of the late track official, working meets for almost 50 years.

Van Riper said that she was pleased in receiving the award.

“I’m very happy with it,” Van Riper said. “It shows that I always worked hard in whatever I did. I’m so grateful to the people who selected me to receive the award. It’s amazing and a big honor.”

Van Riper said that she was “somewhat surprised” with the times she posted this season.

“I was a little surprised,” Van Riper said. “I was second in the high hurdles indoors this year and before this year, I never even qualified for the final. It was a big PR (personal record) for me.”

Van Riper said that track and field “kind of grew on me.”

“I wasn’t good at the beginning,” Van Riper said. “By the end of my freshman year, I started to get the hang of it. It just kind of clicked for me. I had two other athletes who I looked up to in Bianca Torales and Justine Curtis. They were always giving me pointers and helping me out. They were good leaders by example.”

Van Riper was also a fine soccer player, moving from midfield to defender, where she started for most of the last three seasons.

“I had to play defense,” Van Riper said. “I had to help the team.”

Now, it’s all over and Van Riper will head to Tulane University in New Orleans on a full academic scholarship.

“It definitely went by so quickly,” Van Riper said. “It was much faster than I originally thought. It’s weird that it’s over. Some of my best high school memories were playing sports at Kearny. I’m surprised with how well I did.”

Van Riper will major in neuroscience with the hope of eventually becoming a doctor.

“The focus will be on neurology and psychology,” Van Riper said. “Overall, I had a great high school experience.”

And it’s safe to say that Kearny High had a great experience with Victoria Van Riper.

Jim Hague | Observer Sports Writer