Piersanti battles back from adversity | NevadaAppeal.com

Piersanti battles back from adversity

Dave Price

Vince Piersanti is a battler.

That competitive spirit brought Piersanti from almost nowhere to become Dayton High School’s Athlete of the Year and the Nevada Appeal’s Carson Country 3A Athlete of the Year in 1998-99. It also carried him from the depths of life-threatening injuries after an automobile accident on Geiger Grade in 2001 to riding his recumbent cycle Saturday morning in the Pyramid Lake Triathlon.

He will be part of a relay team in which he will cycle 12 miles, Joyce Keith will do the half-mile swim and his younger brother, Tony Piersanti, will finish the race with a 3.1-mile run.

“I’ll just be happy if we finish,” Tony said with a laugh.

His older brother was quick to answer.

“I don’t want to crash. I don’t want to eat dirt. That wouldn’t be fun,” Vince said with a smile. “I’m very happy to do this race. It gives me a reason to train again. It gives me the one thing I’ve always liked doing and that’s competing in athletics.”

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Piersanti now lives in Carson City and holds a part-time job as a recreation aide working primarily with children’s programs for the Carson City Recreation Division. He is also taking classes at Western Nevada Community College, working toward a long-term goal of obtaining a physical training certificate and become a personal trainer. He is able to drive and he can walk with the help of a cane.

In 1998-99, he developed from playing JV basketball as a junior to becoming a key role player his senior season for a Dayton varsity squad that went 19-10 and qualified for the 3A state tournament (a defensive specialist who stood only 5-foot-11 and 150 pounds, he drew the assignment of guarding Moapa Valley’s 6-6 post player in the state tournament). A track and field standout as well, Piersanti won a silver medal in the high jump at the 3A state meet, and cleared a height of 6-4 to set a school record that still stands.

Those are distant memories now. All the more reason 23-year-old Vince is looking forward to his first triathlon.

“Now, it’s not trying for any awards or trophies or anything like that. It’s a different kind of perspective,” Tony Piersanti said. “I think this race will be a lot better for Vince. If he finishes, this will be a bigger accomplishment than being athlete of the year or anything like that. Three years ago, nobody thought he would be doing anything like this.”

Vince Piersanti took on a completely different perspective after Sept. 30, 2001 – the day before his 21st birthday – when he drove back to Reno after watching Dayton’s homecoming football, fell asleep at the wheel in a construction zone, clipped the edge of the road and flipped his vehicle. He was in a coma for three weeks. The rehabilitation has obviously taken considerably more time than that.

“Four years I’ve been recovering from my stinking accident,” he said. “You know how hard it is to stay in shape when you can’t walk around or you can’t go for a jog?”

Piersanti spends upwards to three hours in the gym or riding his WizWheelz three-wheeler around town these days.

“Boy, I’m telling you, I make good time on the downhill when I ride to work (at the Carson Community Center), but going home, I don’t make that good a time,” Piersanti said. “You have to worry about cars. You don’t know how many times I’ve heard people honk. One day, I was going over the hill on Roop Street behind Safeway, there’s no bike path and that is really scary.”

To prepare for his Pyramid Lake ride, Piersanti recently went on a 16-mile ride over Lakeview and into Washoe Valley with Scott Keith, the husband of his triathlon teammate and his recreation division supervisor. The ride took about 45 minutes.

“I’m hoping to get a little bit lower than that, but if we don’t, I would be happy with just holding at that,” Piersanti said.

There’s that competitive spirit showing again.

“I’ve always wanted to try racing. Ever since high school, I’ve competed and I’ve always liked competing. I can’t go back and play basketball or football, so all I can do really is ride a bike,” he said.

“I’m not in too bad a shape. I could lose a couple of pounds – I’m pushing 185 now – but I’m doing OK.”

The opportunity to compete in a race along with his brother is a special occasion, too.

“He lives up in Reno and I live in Carson so we don’t get to meet too often and this brings us together to do something,” Vince said. “Finally, we get to team up. We were on the same team in high school, but this is different.”

“He was always a lot quicker than me. He was a sprinter and I was the distance runner,” Tony added. “I was always the person who did the mile and two-mile race. …”

“That’s why we got him to run three miles!,” Vince deadpanned.

Turning to a more serious note, Vince did emphasize just what this team means to him.

“My dad and grandpa have been big-time supporters to get this (bike) working right,” Piersanti said. “It’s fun to be able to have Joyce and my brother on the team with me because I know they have not given up on me.”

Nor does Vince Piersanti ever give up on himself.

“People tell me just to finish. Well, yeah, that’s like the big part, but a little part of me still says, ‘I’m going for the gold.’ I want to win,” he said. “Once you get that (competitiveness), you don’t ever really lose it.”

Contact Dave Price at dprice@nevadaappeal.com or call 881-1220.