Vitatoe will continue track career at Lindsey Wilson


John Henson

Harlan County High School senior Abby Vitatoe signed with Lindsey Wilson College on Monday to continue her track career. Pictured with Vitatoe at the signing ceremony are her parents, Fran and Ryan Vitatoe, as well as HCHS athletic director Eugene Farmer, HCHS Principal Kathy Minor, HCHS assistant coach Arynn Johnson and Harlan County Schools Superintendent Brent Roark.

By John Henson, Managing Editor

In a successful 13-year run as a cross country and track coach at Harlan County High School, Ryan Vitatoe has grown quite accustomed to sending most of his best athletes on to the next level to compete in college.
He sent his 38th athlete to the collegiate level on Monday morning, but there was something different this time. Instead of his customary position in the back row of the signing photo where coaches and administrators stand, Vitatoe was on the front row with his wife, Fran, for the signing of their daughter, Abby, to continue her track career at Lindsey Wilson College. Both of Vitatoe’s parents graduated from Lindsey Wilson with Ryan running in the track program. He also currently works at the college as director of enrollment for educational outreach.
“I’m really proud of Abby’s decision to continue competing at the next level. She’s in the middle of a tremendous season and I’m glad she’s going to continue pursuing something that she loves so much. She’s been such an important part of our program and has developed into one of the best pole vaulters in the entire state,” Ryan Vitatoe said. “This is a tough one for me, as it’s hard to separate between my roles as her coach and dad, but I’m just really so very proud of her. She’s either been in a uniform with me, or running around on a track facility for her entire life, and I am going to be very lost without her next year, but I wouldn’t hold her back from this opportunity.”
Vitatoe has been part of the HCHS track and cross country program from the beginning. She missed two years of cross country to concentrate on middle school basketball. She joined the track program as a seventh grader. She is currently ranked first in Region 5 of Class 2A and among the top six in the state in the pole vault. She would be ranked first at Lindsey Wilson based on her performance this season and would be in the top five of the Mid-South Conference.
“I’m super excited to continue vaulting at Lindsey Wilson,” said Abby Vitatoe of her decision to choose Lindsey Wilson. “My interest grew after I saw the current rankings of vaulters in the Mid-South Conference, then after talking to coach (Nick) Wilson and coach (Jourdan) Doff, I was pretty confident in my choices of vaulting at the next level and I’m excited for the opportunity to improve. I know this experience will help me learn and grow and I’m excited to see how much more I can improve. I also liked the atmosphere among LWC’s track team and coaches, which helped my decision to commit.”
Vitatoe was one of the first from Harlan County to compete in the pole vault and found immediate success.
“She’s always been a hard worker,” Ryan Vitatoe said. “She took on an event that had never been done in the history of track and field in our county before and has really excelled with it, and that’s a testament to her work ethic. She could have taken the attitude of just trying to clear any height so we’d get points, but she made the event her own and has worked hard to be the best she can possibly be, which is a testament to her attitude. She’s also been an incredible leader within our girl’s program that we will dearly miss next season.”
Vitatoe plans to major in education.
“I want to begin a career in education, and Lindsey Wilson has one of the best education programs in the state, so I knew this would be the best fit for me. I absolutely love the campus and the coaching staff,” she said. “My experience at HC has been wonderful. I’m thankful I’ve got to spend time with my dad and my track and cross country family. The track and cross country program has truly made my high school experience so enjoyable.”
Ryan Vitatoe Is excited to see his daughter run at his alma mater.
“Lindsey Wilson’s women’s program is consistently near the top of the Mid South Conference,” he said, “and I think she will fit nicely with the program coach Wilson has built there.”
“We’re thrilled to have Abby join us at Lindsey Wilson College,” said Wilson. “Abby is clearly a talented athlete who has really flourished her senior season and will continue to improve as we enter the postseason competition. We’re expecting Abby to come in and immediately contribute significantly to our team as a freshman. Her marks are already competitive in our conference and I see nothing but improvement in her future. I’m very excited to see how she progresses during her college career.”