By Mike Gibson
For the Wire
Villa Joseph Marie’s Gina Lupica won four Gold medals (100 meters, 100 and 300 hurdles and anchoring the winning 4×100-meter relays) at the Class AA Track and Field Championships.
Athletes talk all the time about hanging up the spikes and the running shoes before it is too late. But few have the discipline to do it.
None of them, though, are just 18 years old and have about 20 years of good game to go.
“I want to end on a good note,” Villa Joseph Marie’s Gina Lupica said. “I want to end on top.”
From a PIAA District 1 perspective, that’s exactly what Lupica did a couple of weeks ago at the Class AA Track and Field Championships, winning four Gold medals (100 meters, 100 and 300 hurdles and anchoring the winning 4×100-meter relays).
To some, it might be considered insane to stop now, but there is method to Lupica’s seeming madness.
In film, she has found a love stronger than track and she will be studying that at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., starting in September.
Northwestern doesn’t have a women’s track and field team, but
that doesn’t matter to Lupica.
“I was pretty committed to giving it up anyway,” she said. “I’m going to have a double major in film and Spanish. I like to edit. I also have an interest in sound production. Film is something I’ve always had an interest in and it’s something I started doing — YouTube videos — with my brothers and cousins a few years ago.
“I’ve always been drawn to movies and special effects and how it affects the overall feel to the film. I want to learn all I can about it.”
If she picks up film the way she did track, expect her to be lifting one of those heavy statues in Hollywood some Sunday night not far down the road.
Lupica didn’t even go out for the track team at VJM until she was a junior.
“When they are finishing eighth grade, we get the sheets of the kids who are coming in to Villa, and Leah Patrick was one of the athletes and I went to see her (CYO) race,” Villa Joseph Marie assistant coach John Gentile said. “Leah is an outstanding sprinter and she loses the (100-meter) race and I said, ‘Who is that kid that beat her?’ It turned out to be Gina. I was then told by her dad that she’s going to Villa. I said, ‘You mean, I’m getting both?’ I almost passed out.
“So Gina comes to Villa and she doesn’t even get involved in track. She’s into things like plays and acting and she was quite good at it. Going into her junior year, I teach physics, and Gina is in my class and she comes up to me and says, ‘I think I’m going to give track a shot this winter. I want to run the hurdles. My brother does that at Holy Ghost Prep.’
“I told her I knew of her brother [Christian, now at Bucknell] and, if she was half as good as her brother, she’s going to be great.”
The rest was history, albeit a short and meteoric one.
“She’s got to be between one of the top 1 to 5 percent of the athletes I’ve ever seen,” Gentile said. “A hurdler like that, someone of that caliber, comes maybe once in a coach’s career.
“In her first year, she made the states, she made the nationals, something you would not expect a first-year girl to do. I told her after her junior year, ‘I don’t know if you want to run in college but, if you do, you are on everyone’s radar now.’
“I couldn’t believe she came from out of nowhere, helping the team to a fourth-straight district title. As a coach, here you go and get this surprise on your doorstep and then this year she just took it to the next level. Her work ethic between her junior and senior years was second to none. She did everything she could to get better . She went to the gym by herself and lifted weights and did training in the fall.”
It paid off.
In the district finals, she posted a blistering time of 12.41 in the 100 meters to beat teammate Victoria Nawalinski (12.88) for that title and her 100 hurdles time of 14.78 was nearly two seconds better than the time of the second-place finisher, Melinda Martins of Lower Moreland (16.76). She also won the 300 hurdles (47.23).
She also medaled in the states, finishing fifth in the 100 hurdles (14.68) and the sixth in the open 100 meters (12.19) in brutal conditions.
“The first day, the highest temperature was 52 degrees and it was rainy and windy,” Gentile said. “The next day was 66 but with 35mph winds. It was a shame because there were so many with all this talent there, with the potential for so many records to fall, but the wind literally stopped everybody.”
Now, the wind is at Lupica’s back as she sets sail for Northwestern and a career in film.
“It’s an amazing school,” Lupica said. “To have a chance to study there is an honor. When I was accepted, it was Dec. 15. I was alone in the kitchen and I opened the email really fast. I was so happy and so excited. It was the only school I had applied to at that point.”
While her track career might be coming to an end, she hopes Northwestern is just the beginning of bigger things. Judging by what she’s done so far, it probably will be.