Alex Izewski has made two collegiate decisions in his lifetime, and the driving force behind both lies close to home.
Having grown up roughly an hour outside of Philadelphia, the Doylestown, Pa., native drew the attention of NCAA Division I programs during his four years at Central Bucks East High. National track & field superpower University of Florida lured Izewski not only due to its nationally regarded program, but because his brother, John, was a rising sophomore on the team.
Izewski, a sophomore distance runner, went to the Gainesville, Fla., school full of optimism and hope in embarking on a brand new journey, and had the helping hand of his own brother to guide him along with every step.
“I had a lot of interest going to [Florida] because of my brother,” Izewski said. “He’s a fifth-year senior now and that played into my decision a lot to go there. I lived in a house with him and a couple other guys from the team and we were all very close.”
Despite settling into Florida, he soon found his experience on the track was not going to be so smooth.
After a cross country season that saw Izewski drop his eight-kilometer time by more than a minute, he was redshirted for the indoor season along with several of the freshman members on the team. A quadriceps injury he developed in the spring kept him off the track for the rest of the 2011-12 season.
Despite the hard-luck winter and spring in Florida, his struggles with track were not the ultimate factor that brought him back up north.
“It didn’t work in the way I thought it would there,” Izewski said. “I just felt far from home being all the way down in Florida. When I was coming to the decision that I wanted to transfer, I really wanted to make the whole transition as soon and smoothly as possible.”
This time it was his sister, Nicole, playing the pivotal role in Izewski’s eventual decision to transfer to Temple in September.
“My sister was a senior at Temple, and I decided I was going to go to Temple because of her,” Izewski said. “We have an apartment together. It made the transition very smooth and she helped me a lot in making the transition as soon as possible.”
Though Izewski started his academic career at Temple with the dawn of the spring semester in January, he had already contacted Adam Bray, then the Owls’ cross-country head coach and track assistant, about running competitively once again.
“I didn’t start thinking about going out for the team until November,” Izewski said. “I wanted to still compete for a team and I figured I’d send Bray an email and he gave me his number. We communicated back and forth for five weeks until he left, but he did everything in getting me in with the team.”
In racing competitively for the first time in more than a year this past winter, Izewski hardly lost a step as he worked his 3K time down to eight minutes, 21 seconds by the Intercollegiate Association of Amateur Athletes of America championship meet, just shy of the Temple record.
“It’s been a pretty smooth transition,” Izewski said. “I’ve got a lot of people here making the transition smooth. From my first meet in January to how I closed indoor, I feel like I was really able to get better quickly and do everything I need to do to help my team as much as possible.”
As a freshman on a perennial Top 5 program at Florida, Izewski found himself in an uncharted role at the bottom of the team totem pole.
“It’s a hard transition from high school to any college and when I got down [to Florida], it was tough,” Izewski said. “You have to be ready to run every workout and some of those runners are the best in the country. I was a small fish in a big pond down there and it was tough.”
Now at Temple, Izewski’s role for the distance team could not be more different.
“I came up here, and it’s a good group of guys but they still push me,” Izewski said. “Being up in the front in workouts and stuff kind of helps me lead the team and help some of the younger guys.”
Izewski came into the season as a top recruit in a new 2012-13 class of newcomers that brought an influx of five freshmen and newfound energy to a distance team in dire need of it.
After an up and down start to his collegiate track & field career, Izewski has finally found his niche back close to home.
“I’m just trying to help this team be the best they can be and finish up strong in the Atlantic 10 [Conference],” Izewski said. “No matter what happens next year with the conference move, I’m just going to try to help the team get better.”
Andrew Parent can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @daParent93.