John Fajardo | Courtesy

Cal Poly Cross Country is headed to the NCAA West Regional Championships after both the men’s and women’s teams took first place at the Big West Conference Championships. Senior runners Katie Izzo and Peter Cotsirilos said they both hope to find further success in their final post-season of their collegiate careers.

Mustang News: How have you changed from your freshman year to now?

Katie Izzo: As a runner, I’ve become a lot more confident in my abilities. I’ve had a lot of injuries, so I’ve learned what works for my body and what doesn’t.

MN: What injuries have you faced?

KI: My first injury was my sophomore year … I was in the NCAA West Regionals race, and in the middle of the race, my leg snapped. My tibia and fibula completely broke, there was no one out there so I had to scream for help. I went to the hospital … a week later, they put a titanium rod inside my tibia bone. Last year, I was going to come back, but I had a stress reaction in my femur and I had tendonitis, so I had to miss all of track season. I just started running again this summer, so I’ve been able to come back since that injury as well.

MN: How do injuries like that affect your mindset as a runner?

KI: It was probably one of the hardest points in my life. I had those doubts if I’m going to be able to run the same way again. Despite all those negative times and those dark times, you have so many people uplifting you.

After returning from an injury last year, senior Katie Izzo placed in the top three at the Big West Conference Championships. Brian Truong | Mustang News

MN: What were the “dark times” like?

KI: The hardest part was simply not being able to run, which is what I love to do the most, and is a part of what makes me who I am. Running is like meditation for me. After every run I’m always in a better mood because I get to clear my head, explore the beautiful outdoors, and be with all my friends and teammates. But being injured takes that away, which was often heartbreaking. All the injuries I’ve had and the periods I wasn’t able to run has just made me fall in love with the sport even more and has made me appreciate being healthy and able to compete.

MN: What has it been like being able to come back and win the Big West Conference?

KI: It’s just a dream come true. A lot of people, when they get hurt, it’s so easy to get discouraged, a lot of people quit. I want to show that if you keep pushing forward and working hard, you can come back from any injury. So just being there with all my teammates, not only having one of my best races, but doing so well at conference, is just the cherry on top.

MN: What other crazy moments come along with the sport?

KI: I lost my shoe at regionals my freshman year. I passed out and got hypothermia because it was in Seattle. It was freezing cold and I ran it a shoe. Sophomore year, I thought, ‘nothing could go worse,’ and then I break my leg. This year, it’s so great because the regionals course is in Sacramento, so it’s the same course where I broke my leg. I can’t wait to get on the same spikes that I had when I broke my leg and race it and be able to redeem myself.

Senior Peter Cotsirilos came in fifth place at his fourth and final appearance in the Big West Conference Championships. Brian Truong | Mustang News

MN: Being a senior how have you been able to grow into a leader of the team?

Peter Cotsirilos: It comes with experience. Our team has historically had the team leaders be people who have been around the longest.

MN: How have you changed from your freshman year to your senior year?

PC: From my freshman year I learned to train well. Over time you figure out what training plans work for you. That is the great thing about our program. Individuals can tailor their own training plans to what works best for them. There is a lot of flexibility to form yourself as a runner.

MN: What was the most challenging obstacle you had to overcome?

PC: My biggest challenge with regards to athletics here was developing into a stronger runner. I had to figure out what training plan works and being diligent with it.

MN: What kind of mental preparation have you done to elevate yourself?

PC: Personally what works best for me is not getting too psyched out before races. When I get too caught up with that that is when I perform the poorest. Honestly, the biggest thing I tell myself is that I need to trust my training. The sport is anywhere between 50 to 90 percent mental.

MN: How does it feel to be a part of a program that is so successful?

PC: It has been a wonderful experience. I have never been part of something that has grown as much as it has here. Being on a strong, competitive team and winning the conference for the last three years is really satisfying to see how it has all unfolded.

MN: What was your favorite moment of your college career?

PC: My favorite moment was in my junior year when we traveled to Hawai’i for conference and we got 18 points. Scoring 18 points after losing by five points the year before was the most satisfying feeling by getting that conference victory that we all strove for.

MN: What advice would you give to young runners?

PC: Stick with it, trust your training and do not feel the need to rush things. Although at times things may seem like they have been moving along slowly, you never know when you can break out.

Cal Poly Men’s Cross Country earned its third consecutive Big West Conference Championship. John Fajardo | Courtesy Photo
Cal Poly Men’s Cross Country earned its third consecutive Big West Conference Championship. John Fajardo | Courtesy Photo

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