As kids, Alex Izewski and his brother, Josh, were competitive in the pool as opposed to on the track.
“Growing up, the first thing I ever did was swim,” Alex Izewski said. “I swam from the age of six until my freshman year of high school.”
While swimming seemed to be the sport of choice for the two brothers growing up in the Philadelphia suburb of Doylestown, Pa., there was just one problem: they weren’t tall enough.
“My dad had always run his whole life,” Alex Izewski said. “So we would always go to 5K races as a kid. My brother made the transition from swimming to running and I followed. There it got to a point where, with swimming, you have to be pretty tall to be a swimmer and we were both figuring out, ‘OK, we’re not growing anymore, we’re going to be 5-foot-7.’ And that’s when I decided that I can go out there and run pretty good without training and I’ll give it a try. From sophomore year on, it just stuck with me and I really love it.”
After the two brothers made the transition from the water to the track, they both starred for the track team at Central Bucks East High School. Josh, two years Alex’s senior, took a scholarship at the University of Florida and was a productive member of Florida’s distance unit for four years.
The younger Alex Izewski, as he did with the switch to running, followed his brother to Florida in 2011, but transferred to Temple last winter.
After a winter and spring in which Alex Izewski established himself as one of Temple’s premier distance runners, the redshirt sophomore has three years of athletic eligibility to show that he can be the top runner for Temple’s distance squad moving forward.
“[Alex Izewski] is our top guy, there’s no doubt in my mind,” coach James Snyder said. “[Alex Izewski] does a lot of things really well, but I think the characteristic about him that stands out the most is he’s chosen to live the lifestyle of a runner. To be excellent at this sport, you have to live the lifestyle. You have to sacrifice a lot of things, and you have to say no to a lot of things and [he] does that.”
“[Alex Izewski] is a runner,” Snyder added. “That’s his life and that’s a pretty special thing. He’s got all of his chips in the middle of the table right now with [running], and we’re hoping we can cash in later in the season.”
Entering a season with Temple missing its top two performers from last year in recent graduate Travis Mahoney and junior Cullen Davis, who transferred to the University of Pittsburgh, Alex Izewski is primed to help fill the void – both on and off the course.
Although he is embarking on his first cross country season in two years, Alex Izewski proved his worth last year with races such as his eight minute, 21 second performance, just shy of Mahoney’s school record of eight minutes and 20 seconds, in the Intercollegiate Association of Amateur Athletes of America championship meet last February, as well as his eighth place mark of 31 minutes and five seconds in the 10,000-meter run at the Atlantic 10 Conference championships in May.
“Between [Alex Izewski] and [junior Matt Kacyon], we’re going to have a really big one-two punch, and then we have [senior Will Kellar],” sophomore Will Maltin said. “[Alex Izewski] is somebody who’s not the most outspoken kid, but he clearly has the potential to be the top kid on our team, and I wouldn’t doubt him being one of the top kids in our conference.”
Alex Izewski, hardly the loud type, leads more by his example on the course and the track, Snyder said.
“[Alex Izewski] is going to do what [he] does best, and that is he’s going to train his butt off, take care of his business and do all the right things,” Snyder said. “Distance running is a lifestyle and that’s what he does best. He prioritizes, he takes care of his business on and off the course, he’s in the ice bath after practice every day. He strives to be great, and having his brother to look up to over the years I think helped in that regard. It’s my hope that the other guys look up to [him] in those same ways.”
“I would definitely say that I’m a leader by example,” Alex Izewski said. “I’m vocal, but I’m not very vocal. I’ll give anybody advice, I’ll talk to them and encourage them, so I’m vocal that way. But I’m more of a person that guys will look up to to see what kind of training I’m doing and what I’m doing in meets and get an idea of what they want to do off of what I’ve done.”
Although the road to get to this point hasn’t been straightforward or easy, Alex Izewski said he couldn’t be happier with his current position as a key cog on Temple’s distance unit.
“One of the biggest things I don’t miss about [Florida] is how far it was,” Alex Izewski said. “My parents can come to my meets and that’s definitely one thing I like about here better. Our program is going in the right direction. With Snyder and [newly hired graduate assistant Aaron Watson] being here, they’re two guys who can really help our program succeed. I’m really enjoying my time here.”
Andrew Parent can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @daParent93.