Isabella Spagnoli is fast again. Well, maybe not "again." The Great Neck South sophomore has always been fast, but now she knows it. Spagnoli burst on to the scene last year, a freshman putting down times that she didn’t know she could and being a dominant force in the competitive world of Nassau distance running.
This year — on top of battling those who suddenly knew who she was — Spagnoli battled perhaps the biggest opponent of all, self-doubt.
“I psych myself out before races, especially this year,” Spagnoli said. “I wanted to live up to how I was last year. I felt that, if I didn’t hit the times I hit last year, I got slower or that I had peaked as a freshman, and that was it.”
Oh no. That was certainly not it.
The proof for Spagnoli came in the way of a victory in 7 minutes, 22.48 seconds in the 2,000-meter steeplechase on Friday, the second day of the (eventual) three-day Nassau State Qualifier at North Shore High School in Glen Head. The second day of the qualifier was cut short by some Friday evening thunder and lightning, causing the relay portion of the meet (and a few field events) to be pushed to Saturday.
“That felt really good,” said Spagnoli, who qualified for the outdoor state championships, scheduled for Friday and Saturday at Middletown High School. “This race helped my confidence a lot. I kept thinking about how last year I qualified for states and, seeing all the girls that I was going up against [Friday], I [thought] ‘you have to beat them.’ Another part of my mind thought, ‘But what if you don’t?’ It was all these what-ifs that come up in my head. I just had to think positive.”
Spagnoli ran neck and neck with South Side’s Claire Bohan. The two appeared virtually even at the final hurdle, leading to a desperate sprint to the finish. Spagnoli, who made a specific point of not looking behind her, said she didn’t realize just how close Bohan was trailing her. Bohan was second in 7:23.11.
“I saw her shadow behind me and, after that last hurdle, I just started sprinting my heart out,” Spagnoli said. “I didn’t want to look back, just so I wouldn’t psych myself out.”
Elsewhere, Elmont’s Ashley Fulton won the Division I 100 in 12.27 seconds and the Division I 200 in 25.11 Friday, crossing the line in the 200 mere seconds after a loud lightning crack sent the meet into an eventual postponement. Fulton is the defending state champion in the 200 and 100.
On the boys side, Carey’s John Ortiz won the 1,600 in a relatively breezy 4:16.40, a 3.36-second personal best. Freeport’s Danzil Monk Jr. was second in 4:19.34. Ortiz, a Hofstra commit who lives and breathes distance, decided to forgo Thursday’s 800 in order to be fresh for the 1,600 a day later. He knew this would give him a leg up on many of his fellow milers, who ran the 800 and may have still been feeling the aftereffects.
“I went out pretty fast, around a 62 [second] first lap,” Ortiz said. “I knew it was fast and knew if I held it, because they were so tired from their race [Thursday], that I’d be able to get a lead on them. With 400 to go, I didn’t hear stomping feet, heavy breathing or anything. So I knew I had to give it everything I got and hopefully keep them off me.”
Freeport’s Kazeem Scott won the Division I 100 in 10.72 and Division I 200 in 22.01.