There is the ongoing discussion and debate on whether young athletes should focus on one sport or play multiple sports in order to get better and stronger in their sport of choice. Vincent Vermeulen is an example of how and why not specializing has benefits on and off the playing field.
The Greenhills High School senior is one of those athletes who can excel in any athletic competition. Give him a ball or racket or hockey stick or pair of sneakers and watch him do his thing.
Vermeulen recently placed 35th in the MHSAA Cross Country State Finals helping lead the Gryphons to an impressive 11th place finish.
Coach Sara LeBlanc deserves plenty of credit for Greenhills’ success but when it comes to Vermeulen she just let him do his thing.
“Much of Vincent’s success speaks to his true athleticism and drive,” LeBlanc said. “Vincent is a talented tennis played and ice hockey player. The off-season training required with his other sports, both in and out of seasons, has benefited his strength (speed, power and agility) in a way some runners do not experience with simple base mileage.”
But what makes Vermeulen extra special is he doesn’t settle for just being a good athlete. He pushes himself to being a great athlete.
“These components made him a true force in workouts and races,” LeBlanc says. “To speak to his drive and work ethic, he is unlike any I have had an opportunity to work with. He is consistent, regimented and focused in a fashion expected out of college level athletes. Given that he did not run with many of his teammates all four seasons, he had to work even harder to connect with the varsity squad to build trust and camaraderie to achieve the goals they set out for at the beginning of the season. He definitely left a positive mark on our program and demonstrated the work it takes to be successful for future runners.”
Vermeulen only ran cross country as a sophomore and this past season as a senior. And that made what he did on the course even more special.
“It was pretty remarkable,” LeBlanc says. “And not just his ability as an individual (time based), but also with what he was able to pull his teammates to achieve as a whole. This was the best season the men’s cross country team at GH has had in years.”
Vincent, the son of Sandra and Aaron Vermeulen, knew that the Gryphons had plenty of experience returning this season – losing only one senior off last year’s successful team.
“I knew going in that we could be fast, but aside from that I had no idea what to expect,” said Vermeulen, who played tennis as a freshman and as a junior and dual-rostered as a sophomore.
One big question mark Vermeulen had heading to the starting line this year was staring back at him in the mirror. “This year’s fall season was the first season that I truly devoted to cross country,” he said. “I went in feeling excited but nervous; unsure what would be expected of me and unsure what the team atmosphere would be like.”
As the season progressed, it became more evident just how successful Greenhills could be. “We all knew the team’s potential from the start, and we just kind of took things race by race,” Vermeulen said.
And a clear personality of the team began to turn the corner.
“It was fun and easy,” Vermeulen said. “The atmosphere was entirely different from that of hockey or tennis, and I was able to talk and become friends with many kids whom I otherwise never would have spoken with. There was a cooperative rather than a competitive spirit, and we all got along well.”
Among his highlights this past season, Vermeulen was the individual Division 3 Catholic League Champion, which brought things full circle in a way because he was league champion in 2016.
Greenhills won the Division 3 Catholic League title, placed second in Regionals and Vermeulen was named Academic All-State for Division 3. He also won a couple other invitational races.
“Suffice to say, it was nice to end my high school running career with a few trophies in hand,” he said.
Vermeulen, 18, also keeps pace in the classroom. He has a 3.97 grade-point average which will certainly help when it comes time to picking a college. He has yet to stamp that ticket but hopes to play hockey at the next level.