Freshmen head home for a mid semester nap- when they awake, juniors resurface. One student-athlete at The College of New Jersey recalls the moment that life changed drastically forever. Unaware of circumstance, she was blissfully ignorant as she scales the year that would be written in textbooks; immortalized for the inexperienced.
Immersed into her freshman year, Victoria Purritano: nursing student, track and field standout, and extroverted soul, remembers the mark of what would soon be dubbed: The Lost Year.
Adrenaline highs seemingly slowing at an ever-molasses pace, the now junior, 21, states that the New Jersey Athletic Conference Indoor Championship win of 2020, was a “fever dream,” when asked to explain the highs and lows of contributing to an uninterrupted legacy of varsity runners.
In preparation for what was the upcoming spring season, Purritano claims that she could feel the pressure rising, the kettle steaming just before the whistle. The white noise however, never came.
Forced into lockdown, Coach J. Lindsey on March 12th, 2020, reiterated to his athletes that the NCAA chose to cancel the outdoor spring season in compliance with the world seemingly shutting down.
He states in the original notice that, “this may be the hardest email for me to send to all of you.” Purritano remembers it simply, “a few days off to rest the legs.”
What was untold, was a hurdle she couldn’t run over. 365 plus days of a blurry existence, remembered to those who do not have the luxury of forgetting. Junior student-athlete James Blair recalls one statement his mind couldn’t escape. Looking back he remembers only, “don’t leave your house.”
Purritano states that, “when you spend your life running around a red rubber track, you sometimes feel like a hamster on a wheel.”
When asked about the first few months of COVID-19 lockdown, Blair candidly interjects, ‘I felt so trapped, I would have done anything to run on it again.”
Victoria, with a similar mindset in hand, refused to allow her mental health to spin further delving into negativity. Day by day, Purritano began to walk, then run on the streets of her hometown, Ridgewood, NJ- two hours away from her beloved rubbery latex.
“You always say you can’t wait for practice to be over,’ junior and former student-athlete Aditya Chandrashaker states, ‘but once it’s finalized, you wish you knocked on wood.”
However, Purritano trudged through the obscurity of the unknown and continued her fight to not lose herself in the year of fog. Aware of what was at stake, the hurdler knew if she let go of who she once was- the sport she loved would fade along with it.
“You’re back and now you’re old,’ junior Jolie Sheerin and a friend of Purritano stated, ‘now you have to find yourself in the aftermath.”
Conducted interviews with upperclassman teammates of the TCNJ Track and Field team, led to a collective response when presented the term, “the lost year.”
Staple words coined on the Division 3 team consisted of the following: Covid, struggle, heartbreaking, stripped, alone.
Struck with a relentless drive, Purritano makes her own path by continuing a legacy she once knew. “I was aware of everyone around me, and what they were feeling- I couldn’t succumb to that as well,” Victoria reflects on what she believed was the end of her career, turned into a second chance.
So what was left for her now two years later? Purritano reiterates the hope sprung from another opportunity of a full year on her rubber soles in a collegiate setting. The junior recalls in one candid interview that she couldn’t sit around on the sidelines and watch her youth unstripped from COVID-19, pass her without a moment to shine.
Multiple NJAC honors and countless heat wins, Victoria- dubbed Vicky, has reached new heights in her race to become better than who she was pre-fog. To Purritano, track and field has been in her skin for 7 years and counting- it is more than just a hobby, but a way of life.
Positivity drives through the junior as her teammates look her up to her fondly.
Sophomore Liz Lamb states, “she’s such an inspiration to be around- always giving 100%.”
As her outdoor season winds down, Purritano will race this Saturday and Sunday at the Outdoor New Jersey Athletic Conference Championships of 2022, a showdown brewing full-circle.
“I’ve watched countless friends quit- I can’t be one of them,’ Victoria reminds herself, ‘you cannot lose yourself in times of struggle- remember who you are and what you love, and you will find it once again.” Purritano’s final statement on the lost year rings the long awaited white noise.