Local running legend Vince Wojnar dies at 80

By Robert Miner - For Times Leader
Wojnar -

The region’s running community lost one of its longest-standing pillars on Thursday when Vince A. Wojnar passed away at age 80.

Wojnar was a standout runner in high school, college and the military. But he is best known for what he did for the local running community for more than 42 years.

Wojnar was one of the founders of the Wyoming Valley Striders, the area’s premier running club.

“Vince was the mainstay in the Wyoming Valley — he held everything together during the early years of the Striders running club and over the running boom years,” said Frank Gaval of Insta Results, a company from the Hazleton area that times and scores many Wilkes-Barre-area races.

Wojnar also served as the Striders secretary/treasurer and race director for many years. He is survived by four children: Vince P. Wojnar, Dave Wojnar, Diane Eustice and Linda Wojnar. Vince P. and Linda are very active with the Striders, following in their father’s footsteps with their love for running.

“Vince was a great family man,” said Dick Daniels, race director for numerous races in the Tunkhannock area. “He loved his family. He has great kids. And they thought the world of him.

“(Wojnar) reminded me of a Boy Scout,” Daniels continued. “He was trustworthy, loyal, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient and especially thrifty. He was brave, clean and reverent. When Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts of America, was establishing the scouts, he must have had somebody like Vince in mind.”

Wojnar was honored twice in 2015. The Striders club placed a bench in Kirby Park right near where runners had raced by hundreds of times over the years in club-sponsored races. The bench features a plaque that reads “In honor of Vince Wojnar. Athlete, Coach, Teacher, Official and Friend to All Runners.”

At the dedication of the bench, Paul McGrane, Coughlin High School’s running coach, said: “Vince is running in the Wyoming Valley. He is road running. He is cross country. He is track and field. He is the man.”

After hearing about Wojnar’s death, McGrane said: “Vince would do anything for runners. It didn’t matter whether you were an elite runner or a runner just starting out in the sport. He was very complimentary. He always had encouraging words for everyone.”

In November 2015, the Striders honored Wojnar at its 40th anniversary banquet at King’s College. Runners from as far away as South Carolina, North Carolina and Binghamton, N.Y., came to be part of the celebration. Two of Wojnar’s teammates from the University of Pittsburgh, Zinnerford Smith and Perry Jones, traveled from New Jersey to be part of the day.

After the banquet, Sean Robbins, one of the area’s best male triathletes, remarked: “It would really be difficult to sum up what Vince has been to running in this area. One night doesn’t do him justice.”

Wojnar was preceded in death by his wife, Judy.


By Robert Miner

For Times Leader

Vince Wojnar’s career highlights

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 hurdles.

At the University of Pittsburgh — where he earned a B.S. in mathematics — he was part of the IC4A indoor mile relay team that won championships in 1958 and 1959. The 1959 victory was a record-setter.

After graduating from Pitt, he served in the Air Force from 1960 to 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 Championship.

A year later, he was the Military Transport champ in the 440-yard dash and in the 440 intermediate hurdles.