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Grounds and Vanatti set to 'blaze' new trails

Monday, June 5, 2006

Andy McCammon photo

As Northview boys track Coach Jeff Gambill and members of their families look on, James Grounds (left) and Neil Vanatti sign letters of intent Thursday to attend and compete for Vincennes University.

Their high school careers may be ending, but Northview track and field standouts James Grounds and Neil Vanatti haven't seen the last of each other.

Grounds, who excelled in distance-running events for the Knights, and Vanatti, the school's all-time record-holder in shotput, both signed letters of intent Thursday to attend Vincennes University on track and field scholarships.

The long-time teammates agreed that having an old friend around will ease their transition from Northview Knights to VU Blazers. They may even room together, Vanatti said.

"I'm happy James is going with me, so I'll have somebody I know on the team," he said. "I think (Vincennes) will be a good fit for us."

Northview boys track coach Jeff Gambill said VU is an ideal choice for Grounds and Vanatti, who both aspire to compete at an NCAA Division I or II level before they hang up their spikes for good.

"That's the beauty of a junior college-- you don't lose any eligibility, and it's a good transition," he said. "Vincennes has a good junior college track program, and it'll be an opportunity for these guys to get their feet wet."

Both athletes are coming off strong senior seasons for the Knights. Grounds, who specialized in the 3200 meters at Northview, was selected as the team's most valuable distance runner this season.

In cross country, Grounds was a 2005 all-Western Indiana Conference selection and took down a sectional championship as a senior.

Gambill said Grounds has improved steadily since his freshman year, a trend he hopes to see continue at Vincennes.

"If he can improve as much as he did in high school once he gets to college, I think he could do really well."

Vanatti's resume is just as impressive.

He holds the school's all-time mark in shotput at 52' 7'', a record he set and re-set eight times. Also a threat in the discus, Vanatti was voted the team's overall MVP in 2006.

Vanatti also excelled for the Knights on the gridiron. A member of Northview's 2004 conference champion football team, he earned all-WIC honors in 2006.

With more time to focus on his throwing, Gambill said the former multi-sport athlete should flourish at Vincennes.

"For him, this'll be the first time he'll be able to concentrate on just one thing," Gambill said.

Grounds, who will also run cross country for the Blazers, hopes to improve on his career best 4:43 in the 1600 meters and compete in a variety of distance events for VU.

"I think I can help them a lot with the longer distances," he said.

Vanatti said he's eager to expand his bag of tricks beyond shot and disc. He's excited to learn the mechanics of the hammer throw (a 16-pound weight attached to a wire handle) and the weight throw (an indoor event involving a 36-pound weight).

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