Karli Visconto has become so skilled at balancing her hectic schedule that it’s a surprise she hasn’t taken up the trapeze by now.
Like a lot of other student-athletes her age, Visconto, a junior at Nazareth Academy, participates in multiple sports. However, what makes her story remarkable is that she’s playing two sports … at the same time.
Basketball had always been Visconto’s first love, as she began playing around age 5 or 6. She’s suited up for head coach John Turner’s team at Nazareth since she was a freshman, but it was her inclusion on the fall cross country team that allowed a thought to creep into the always active Visconto’s head: what if she could play basketball and run indoor track simultaneously in the wintertime.
“During cross country season I was putting up some good times, and I realized I wanted to run in college,” Visconto said during a Sunday afternoon chat at her home down the street from Our Lady of Calvary. “It’s not something I always wanted to pursue, and up until sophomore year I thought I wanted to play basketball in college. It’s still my top sport, but I also said that maybe I could also come to a couple of indoor track meets while trying to qualify for states.”
Before the winter season started, Visconto went to a meeting also attended by John Turner, track coach Paul Peters and athletic director Danielle Turner. The feat she was thinking of attempting hadn’t been done before, but Visconto said she left the meeting having convinced her coaches that she was 100 percent committed to both sports.
A typical day this winter for Visconto sees her attend classes at Nazareth most of the day, where she tries to get a jump on homework during her study periods. Then, before basketball practice begins (Visconto doesn’t train for track on days the Pandas have a hoops contest), she changes into her running clothes and trains for over an hour at Eden Hall, across the street from the school. Then, there’s a 45-minute break, then practice, then home to finish any homework Visconto didn’t complete during school. Indoor track meets, she said, usually occur on Friday evenings, sometimes as far away as Lehigh University.
“People have asked me why I’m doing this, and the simple answer is that I want to,” Visconto said. “I knew I had to consider where I want to be for college and future goals I’ve set for myself. Plus, I’m the type of person who needs to be kept busy. If I have too much time on my hands, then I don’t know what to do with myself.”
Visconto said she is already hearing from possibly interested colleges, all while continuing to work to drop her times — she said she’s currently 10 seconds away from being able to qualify for the indoor mile run at states, and just four seconds from qualifying for the 800-meter race.
And although she maintained she has held a firm grasp on her extracurriculars, there have been frustrating moments. For example, Visconto had to recently sit out a week when she injured her quad, which she mused could have been the result of running/training outside in frigid temperatures.
“I felt guilty, because I was out of basketball due to a workout I did for indoor track,” she said. “It wouldn’t happen if I wasn’t doing both, so was this a good decision? But then I tell myself I can handle it, and my coaches have been considerate with me in doing both sports and bearing with me.”
For John Turner and Peters, it’s been an easy decision to help Visconto on her way. At a school like Nazareth, teachers and coaches ultimately want what is best for the student-athletes, even if that does mean loosening the leash and letting them find their way.
“She’s a joy to coach,” Peters said. “Her dedication is amazing. When it comes to academics and athletics she has just made a decision that both are extremely important to her and she is willing to put in the time, work and sacrifice to excel in both.”
“She has a tremendous work ethic that’s matched anyone I’ve ever coached,” Turner echoed. “The fact that she can compete at a high level in more than one sport speaks to that.”
Visconto is also a straight-A student, boasting a 4.3 GPA. She’s also involved in student council and works as a peer counselor, to ensure she is “more well-rounded and appealing” to potential university suitors.
“I want them to see someone that’s more than just a student,” she said. “Someone that can contribute a lot to their school and bring a lot to the table.”
For Visconto, she wants to be great, not good, and her maturity has allowed her to see how much work it will take to achieve the lofty goals she’s set for herself. She said running has helped compartmentalize the things in her life that bring on stress, and that she has more time in the day than people might realize.
She enjoys “normal kid” things like spending time with friends, watching Netflix and going to her family’s shore house in Wildwood over the summer. Visconto said she’s not sure what winter season senior year will bring in terms of will she participate in both sports again, and a lot of that may depend on where she is in the college process. She may be spreading herself thin at the moment, but Visconto knows it will only help her later in life.
“Nothing comes easy to me,” she said. “I’ve had to work really hard for everything I’ve achieved. I think this school has helped me a lot with that, in that everyone is willing to give you 110 percent as you’re willing to give the same in return. Everyone wants the best for you, and it’s changed me into the person I am today. I used to get stressed, but now I just know that everything is going to get done.” ••