WILKES-BARRE — A testament to the respect Vince Wojnar has earned from the area running community was on full display on Tuesday night at the Wyoming Valley Striders 40th anniversary banquet at King’s College.
Wojnar, who was one of the founders of the Striders, served for many years as the running club’s secretary/treasurer and was the race director for most of the Striders-sponsored races over the last 40 years. But Wojnar recently announced he would no longer serve as race director of Striders races, turning over race director duties to other club members.
Wojnar was honored at the banquet. And over 200 runners and running coaches from near and far showed up to be part of the celebration.
Reginald Thomas, a former local runner and race director, made his way from South Carolina to be part of the celebration. Stewart Harry, a former local runner and Wyoming Valley West running coach, traveled from North Carolina to attend the event. Tom Carter, a national class runner who won the Run for the Diamonds in 1976 and the Utica Boilermaker in 1979, made his way from Binghampton, N.Y.
Runners from the greater Scranton area, Tunkhannock, Berwick, Hazleton, Harveys Lake and the greater Wilkes-Barre area filled Sheehy-Farmer Campus Center at King’s for the event.
And two former University of Pittsburgh runners, Zinn Smith and Perry Jones, who ran on the same team with Wojnar at Pitt, traveled from New Jersey to be on hand for the event.
Smith and Wojnar were part of the IC4A indoor mile relay team that won championships in 1958 and in 1959 for the Panthers. The 1959 victory was a record setter.
“When I saw the photo of Vince sitting on the bench (referring to the bench honoring Wojnar that was placed in Kirby Park in August), I was very pleased because unlike some of us who moved on to other things, Vince stayed with running, in a giving back kind of way — helping in the development of young runners,” Smith said.
Wojnar started running by competing in the Junior Olympics. He ran for Meyers High School and was the Wilkes-Barre City Champ in the 440-yard dash, long jump and the 120-yard high hurdles. After receiving his B.S. in mathematics from Pitt, Wojnar served in the Air Force from 1960-1963.
He was the Air Transport Service champ in the 440-yard and 800-yard runs in 1961. That same year, he finished third in the 440-yard dash and seventh in the 880-yard run in the Air Force World Championships. In 1962, Wojnar was the Military Transport champ in the 440 dash and 440 intermediate hurdles.
“This (honoring of Wojnar) is overdue,” said Joe Moran, who coached track and football in the 1960s and early 1970s at Coughlin High School. “No one deserves this honor more than Vince. He was one of the greatest track coaches the Valley has ever seen.”
Dick Daniels, race director of numerous runs in the Tunkhannock area and running coach, served as the master of ceremony of the banquet. Daniels presented Wojnar with a plaque, featuring a photo of Wojnar with world famous runner, Frank Shorter.
Wojnar received one praise after another at the banquet. But somehow Sean Robbins, the area’s best male triathlete, said it best.
“It would really be difficult to sum up what Vince has been to the running in this area,” Robbins said. “One night doesn’t do him justice.”