Spagnoli Strides Her Way to Success


Star runner Isabella “Izzy” Spagnoli races-by during her cross country meet.

Evelyn Won

Eyes drop down to the field ahead, and the feeling of anticipation reduces the sound of Bethpage State Park to slow, quiet breaths. In. “On your mark.” Out. An explosive pop sends dozens of girls rushing into the woods, and she weaves her way to the front to lead the pack. 

Isabella Spagnoli, who goes by Izzy, is a four-time county champ runner on the GNS cross-country and track and field team. She runs all-year-round, climbing up the hills of cross-country courses, trudging through the icy breeze that blasts during winter track, and leaping over steeplechase barriers during spring track. “Spring just brings out the happiness in me—it’s just the perfect season to shine,” she says. 

Izzy began running when she was in seventh grade as a member of the middle school cross-country and track and field teams. “I was not really a sports kid,” she stated, even though her family members on the male side were all competitive wrestlers. While her family didn’t push her in the direction of becoming a runner, her potential was already beginning to show in her seventh grade cross-country season. She placed first consecutively in every cross-country race during at-home and away races. However, it was not until she reached the high school where she began to truly run competitively. “It was a big difference from middle school, because [in high school] there were counties, divisions, all this championship stuff,” she said.

When she joined the high school team, it was her team that began to push her into becoming a serious runner. “The little freshman me had no clue about anything, like pacing, time, splits, not even wearing spikes,” she said. “But they helped me a lot.”

From before the race, to during the race, and to after the race, Izzy’s teammates are always there to cheer her on. While anxiously waiting on the faded white line, she and her teammates shake out their legs, complete late-minute stretches, and take strides on the vast polo field of Bethpage State Park. They gather in a huddle once the announcer calls the 5-minute countdown. “Whatever happens, happens,” Izzy contributes, and her teammates nod in agreement. “You should be proud of where you are today.” While this season, the team are her number one supporters as she blazes the course, there was a time when she was the team cheerleader standing on the sidelines.

Running isn’t always a flat course, and Izzy is aware of the fact all too well. In the middle of her cross-country season freshman year, Izzy found out she had a stress fracture on her right foot. Turns out, she was running too much. As any teenager would feel, Izzy was excited showing up to school with a boot; people asked questions, she got to show it off, and she got to miss P.E. However, smiles quickly turned upside down as she found herself growing distant from her teammates. “I never realized how much I was dedicated to running and how much of a hobby it was,” she recalls. “I thought I was never going to get back to what it used to be.”

Izzy proved herself wrong by showing herself, her teammates, and competing teams on Long Island what she was capable of during the next two seasons. With the help of her coach, Hudson “Black Jesus” Georges, and his rigorous workouts (which were known to have an in- definite end every day), Izzy built herself back to where she left off. She refers to Coach Georges as her biggest mentor. “We all don’t like the repeats, but [Hudson] definitely helped me a lot with that,” she says. “And he helped me a lot through- out spring when I was starting to get faster and faster.” Her increasing pace and performance enabled her to reach County Championships and win three titles. 

Izzy has many miles ahead of her, which may need a couple (many) runs to the footwear store to replace worn soles. Just as she has found her sport and her team, she has also found her shoes, proudly mentioning, “When I first came, I was wearing my pink Adidas, and now I am a full Brooks Ghost 14 fan.”