Stephen Vento joined an elite group of athletes when he made the UConn men's cross country team.

Making the UConn team is a major accomplishment because the Huskies are a Division I program competing in the Big East and only a select few make these teams.

"So far, to be able to run and compete for the University of Connecticut and be labeled a `Division 1 Big East Athlete' is truly something special and which I take much pride in," Vento wrote in an e-mail.

Before arriving at UConn, Vento made his mark for the Weston cross country and track teams. He was Weston's Team MVP for the cross country, indoor track and outdoor track teams.

"All my accomplishments were definitely not achieved by me alone crossing the line, there were multiple factors and people who supported me throughout the whole way," Vento said.

"I thank my parents who were always there for me. Then there's my coaches: Marty Ogden, Lloyd Weinstein, and Matt Medve. I certainly owe much of my success and progress to my former older teammates, [Steve] Piscatelli, [James] Bloom and [Ryan] Gilmore.

"While they were seniors, the three of them always pushed me and their work ethic allowed me to be dragged up to the next level. As for the key to my success, it really was simple: trust what you're told and do the little things right."

All three seasons, Vento represented the Trojans in the biggest meets. He qualified for State Open in cross country and New Englands and Nationals during indoor and outdoor track.

The Westport News recognized Vento's all-around performance and selected him Weston Male Athlete of the Year.

"Being nominated as Weston's Male Athlete of the Year by the Westport News was truly an honor," Vento said. "Running around campus, I see all the other male athletes exerting just as much sweat, time, and energy into their workouts, so for me to be selected was certainly very awarding."

His perseverance and desire made a difference for him.

"Stephen is the epitome of what hard work will allow you to accomplish," Weinstein said. "He has a great work ethic and his work led to great results. He developed into one of the best runners in the state."

As a cross country runner, Vento built up his endurance, which enabled him to run longer distances and have energy left in the tank.

"Anyone can develop the endurance to become a cross country runner, the hard part or key is consistency and progression," Vento said. "It's simple -- you need to go out and run everyday or at least five to six times a week -- consistency. This is because your body acts like a sponge and will absorb and store the feeling of that running motion and build up a muscle memory."

Running distances take a lot of thinking as well. Being psychologically focused helped Vento will his way to passing opponents.

"My biggest strategy in racing long distances is all mental," Vento said. "I know I have the fitness, so I don't bother with it. It's whether or not I can concentrate my mind on the guys around me and react to their moves for two to three miles."

During the track season, Vento runs much shorter distances. He runs anything from 400 meters to the 2-mile and adjusts to races that appear to be a sprint in comparison to cross country.

"With shorter, quicker events, my workouts are more aimed to fast repetition/interval workouts to imitate the type of feeling I will feel during the shorter races," Vento said. "I also usually decrease my mileage slightly since the intensity of the workouts adds a whole other stress level to my body."

Life on the track began during the indoor season of his freshman year. He did four years of indoor and outdoor track and two at cross-country. Vento's older brother Andrew, Weston's record holder in the long jump, introduced him to track.

"I really like the whole vibe/ambiance of the sport and its culture," he said.

Vento played soccer growing up and was on varsity for the Trojans for two years. Junior year, he saw he was better at running and joined the cross-country team after being persuaded by Piscatelli, Bloom and Gilmore.

Leadership is another strength of Vento's as he captained all three teams. He worked hard but also spoke when necessary.

"Being Captain last year was quite the experience," Vento said. "I'd say a lot of my showing was enough to lead. I just did what we were supposed to do and people followed. "

Academically, he had a 3.88 GPA and took six AP courses in his high school career. Math and history are Vento's favorite subjects.

"Running and academics I think go hand in hand and allow myself to be placed in a good habitual routine," Vento said.

At UConn, he's enrolled in the business school. Vento's instincts point him towards finance.

For now, his focus is to excel in cross-country and make the track teams.

"The key to making the teams here is: summer training, dedication and passion," Vento said. "You have to do the work over the summer, that's it. You can't slide by because it's going to show in the 8-mile and 5-mile time trial we do here in the course of three days. You need to love the sport you do, or why else would you continue to do it at the collegiate level? If you have those three qualities, you will have a good chance of making the teams."