Randolph Champion Swimmer Rediscovers Self as Climber

By Alexander Rivero

Staff Writer


Vincent Marciano, at 21, has by this point in his young life sufficient material for a rather interesting memoir, but he is simply too busy to pen one just yet. 


The Randolph native and former swimmer, after discovering his natural abilities for the pool during his infant years, and honing them to consistent top national rankings during his teenage years, decided to hang up his swim cap and hit the climbing boulders. For Marciano, a life dedicated to an uncompromising swim schedule pushed him to take pause after disqualifying from Olympic competition, and for the first time in his entire career, he took a break from swimming and dedicated himself to just being a normal kid, until a casual invitation by a friend to go climbing changed his perspective, and awoke his competitive drive once again.


Focused, precise, and open to talk at length over the phone, Marciano breaks down the substantive parts of his life with a calculating attention to detail and pacing that gives one the impression of listening to a well-written audio book, narrated by the author himself. Describing just how he got started in swimming, he paints in wide strokes, providing 30,000-foot overviews of his swimming career before taking well-timed vertical dives into the relevant specifics. He is engaging, lively, and charges the conversation with a contagious electricity. When speaking to him, one suddenly feels the duty to continue the conversation while jogging in place. 


It all started when Marciano was 7. Lanky and with a terrible sense of coordination, his parents decided to place him at the local YMCA swim competitions hoping to get the boy going. 


“My parents were just hoping that something would stick, since I had no coordination at anything,” says Marciano. “But once I got there I proved to be just a middle-of-the-pack kind of guy.”


He ranked low in races early on, but then, out of nowhere, everything just began to click. By age 9, he was getting to the top of his age group, and was close to qualifying for regional meets, but was not quite there. At this time, he switched over to the Morris County Swim Club in an effort to stick with his group of friends. During this time, he felt his body adapt to the water in ways it had not before, and ended up ranking 8th in the state, and landing on the radar of possible scouts and recruiters. His career was kicking into high-gear, and before he knew it, the grinding schedule that would form the foundation of his daily life for the next few years was under way. 


“It was all just so surreal,” recalls Marciano. “Some people in this sport don’t break their stride until college, and I was always competing at a high level after about the age of 12. At about that age swimming really became my life, and not in a negative way. The amounts of success I was seeing was inconceivable to a lot of people, especially to myself, but at that age you can’t grasp it. To a 12-year-old, you’re just having fun, being in your sport, surrounded by teammates and friends. Photographs, interviews with magazines. There was no ceiling, it seemed, and I hadn’t had a single brush with failure yet. It was unreal in many ways.” 


It was only a matter of time before people in the know began looking to Marciano as a possible successor to champion swimmer Michael Phelps, the all-time record holder for Olympic gold medals. Marciano bought into the hype, and was certain there was nowhere to go but up. His dream was to continue honing his skills in the pool, and to qualify for Olympic competition. But before qualifying for the Olympics, he first had to qualify for the Olympic trial meets, and place in the top two rankings. 


The Olympic trial meet would be held at Purdue University in Indiana, and Marciano, for the first time in his life, was feeling anxious. Diving in at the start of the meet, he realized immediately that he had committed a false start, and forced himself to finish the race knowing that he was already disqualified. He left Purdue with a sense of loss, and although he continued swimming in the months afterward, he noticed an inability to reduce his best times any further, and began to stagnate. 


These feelings of having exhausted himself in the sport culminated with his decision to put swimming on pause in 2018 and try being a regular person. He watched television, hung out with friends. Until a friend invited him to give climbing a try. Now he is all in. He has found himself again on the rocks, where he spends his week combining arduous climbing sessions with intense weight training in the gym. In climbing, he has found another challenge that taps into his competitive drive.


“Each boulder is multi faceted,” says Marciano, “unique every single time. If I’m going to try something hard, chances are I’m trying it multiple sessions. Figure out the noose, the holds. I need to be thinking and executing at the same time, and at 6’3, 190 pounds, gravity isn’t really my friend out there. My body is naturally built for water, not climbing. But I love the challenge of it all.”


Now on the verge of graduating with a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Marist College, with the hope of one day becoming a counselor, Marciano reminds us all that life is too rich to chain ourselves a specific path if our hearts and spirits are no longer fully immersed in it. It is alright, he reminds us, to find a new way.


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