SOUTHINGTON – Jackie Izzo has burst onto the scene for the Southington girls cross country team this fall and, in just the beginning of her career, she’s already run the fastest time turned in by a Southington female runner.
Only a freshman, Izzo blitzed the field with a 19:28 on the 3.1-mile course at Northwest Catholic on Tuesday as the Blue Knights improved to 4-2 on the season.
The flat course at Northwest Catholic High School and Tuesday’s conditions were perfect for Izzo to cover the five kilometers in record time. The West Hartford course was in stark contrast to Southington’s home layout at Camp Sloper, which is full of hills
“It was the fasted 5K run by any female at Southington High School,” Southington coach Dan Dachelet said. “It’s a big deal. There are probably about 20 girls in the state that can run that time.”
Tuesday marked Izzo’s second overall win of the season.
“She’s a very smooth and gritty runner,” Dachelet said. “She does not like to lose. When she’s running, you can tell there’s an intensity. You just can’t instil that. She’s got a lot of heart.
“She’s figured out how to absorb and deal with pain,” the coach added. “It’s tough. A lot of kids back off when they feel pain. It takes a unique person to channel that pain and say, ‘This is my status quo; I’m going to be in a certain amount of pain in this sport,’ and it almost becomes your stasis and you just go with it.’”
The Lady Knights had the top 10 runners come in during their 15-50 victory over Northwest Catholic.
“I knew going in that the course was flat and I was hitting my spits,” Izzo recounted Wednesday. “I felt really good during the race. In the last mile, I decided to push it and see how fast I could go,”
Izzo ran for three years at DePaolo Middle School. She was the No. 3 runner as a sixth and seventh grader, then moved up to the No. 1 slot last year.
She’s emerged as the Blue Knights top runner this fall after running 300 miles over the summer.
“I expected to do pretty good, but not as well as I’m doing right now,” Izzo said. “I trained really hard over the summer and I’ve practiced really hard. I trained hard and pushed myself. It’s really different at the high school level. The courses are different and longer.”
Izzo also won a race at West Hartford Reservoir in September, a tri-meet with Avon and Conard.
“It feels good to win,” Izzo said. “It feels like, ‘Wow, I’m a freshman and I didn’t think I could do this,’ and it just feels awesome.”
Izzo is looking to improve more this season. Dachelet said she can be a state and New England caliber runner. He said she will be definitely be in the State Open race.
“She’s such a new runner that you don’t know what she’s capable of,” Dachelet said. “We are just trying different things in different races and giving her different goals. She likes to get into a rhythm. On Tuesday, she was just hitting all of the splits and there was nothing in the way on that course. There were no people, no mud and good footing. It was a perfect day to run time like that.”
Dachelet said Izzo’s performance on Tuesday isn’t easily achieved.
“We’ve only had one elite runner like this in my time here, Gabrielle Napoli, but she never got to run a course like this that was perfectly flat,” Dachelet said. “This is a great accomplishment for Jackie and very good for our program. She brings a fresh perspective to the sport. She has a fresh outlook about running. We have other talented freshmen and they all have brought a nice dynamic to the program this year.”
Dachelet said senior captain Kate Kemnitz has been a mentor for Izzo and the other freshmen.
“A lot of girls would look at the new runners as a threat, but Kate has embraced it and Kate’s done a fantastic job teaching her, showing her the ropes,” Dachelet said.
Izzo is the daughter of Vincent and Robyn Izzo. She has an older sister, Alexis, who is a junior at Southington High.