Jackie Izzo and Grace Michaud competed individually in the New England High School Cross Country Championships last Saturday in Wickham Park. They were just the second and third girls in the program’s history to make it this far.
On top of that, in a field of over 250 runners across five states, they each placed in the top-75. For both Izzo and Michaud, they said that they were humbled and honored to have made it to this point, regardless of their result last Saturday.
“I was very proud to be here,” Izzo said. “We knew we had a chance to get here, and we were really excited when we did it. To be able to go with each other made us even happier.”
“For me, it was a real honor,” Michaud added. “We were the first girls to make it here in a long time and I want to thank our coaches for that. They have done so much to put us in this position.”
Izzo and Michaud qualified for the meet after each placing in the top-25 in the state open meet on Nov. 1 at Wickham Park. Seeing Izzo and Michaud’s times and seeing where they placed shows just how deep and talented the field was last Saturday.
Izzo finished with a time of 19:03 in the New England meet, a 46-second improvement from the state open meet. Yet, Izzo finished 22nd. The best time was by Sofie Matson of Falmouth, Maine, with a time of 17:52, which was 21 seconds better than the best time at the state open.
Michaud, who finished in 25th at the state open with a time of 19:59, only lost one second off that in the New England meet as she came in at exactly 20 minutes. That was good for 72nd place.
“Not every race can be like a personal record race,” Michaud said. “For me, it wasn’t my best race but we gave it our all today and that is we can ask for in every race.”
“The colder weather made it a little harder to breath,” Izzo said. “But the conditions were better than last week. Our coaches did a very good job in preparing us for this race and helping us find the best spots to run on.”
Izzo and Michaud spent the entire season as the Lady Knights’ one and two runners. Izzo finished in the top-10 in each race she competed in before the CCC championship meet, and also placed fourth in the Class LL meet.
Michaud only placed outside the top-10 once before the CCC championship meet, and that was in the Woods Trail Run in Vermont on Oct. 5.
Together, they each finished in the top-10 five times before the conference championship meet, including three meets in the top-five together and two in the top-two together.
Both Izzo, a sophomore, and Michaud, a junior, were not sure whether they wanted to run competitively as they entered as freshmen at Southington High. But after each has now spent at least two years with the team, they know they made the right choice.
“I did run cross country in middle school,” Izzo said. “Transitioning to the high school, I really fell in love with the team atmosphere and all the upperclassmen took care of us. We had two seniors that really took us under their arms, Kate (Kemnitz) and Natalia (Adamczyk). That is when I knew I had fallen in love with the sport.”
“I actually played soccer all throughout middle school,” Michaud said. “I also played my freshman year in the fall, and then I started indoor track as a way to stay in shape and condition for soccer. But then, the same thing happened to me as Jackie. I loved the team atmosphere and I realized how much I loved running as more of a sport than just trying to stay fit.”
Izzo and Michaud will both return to lead a Lady Knights team next year that will return six of their top-seven runners. The sophomore and junior will look to build off their unforgettable 2019 season.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Spencer Dreher, email him at SDreher@SouthingtonObserver.com.