Isabella Prosceno’s leap into the area cross country spotlight might have surprised some, but it came as no shock to those in certain running circles.
Prosceno has been running for most of her life and started racing competitively in the past couple of years.
The Palmer Ridge freshman’s mom tells stories of her daughter beating adults in races around the Larkspur community while Prosceno was still in elementary school. Rob Collins, the Palmer Ridge cross country coach, heard about her potential while she was in middle school.
Prosceno showed the hype wasn’t hollow by running the fastest time of a Pikes Peak area runner at the state meet Oct. 28 when her 18-minute, 17.8-second 5K was good for second in Class 4A, earning the freshman Gazette Girls’ Cross Country Peak Performer of the Year.
Only four girls' runners in all of the state had a better time.
“She just ran a great race,” Collins said. “That day Isabella was definitely on.”
The adjustment to the 3.1-mile distance came gradually over the course of her first high school season.
“Over the season, I kept on getting a little better each race,” Prosceno said. “I would learn from what I didn’t do in the previous one. The very last race at state, which was a pretty hilly course for all of us, I actually PR’d.”
Collins said he cut the freshman loose in September at the Woodbridge Cross Country Classic in California, where she finished 24th in a loaded field.
Her personal best at the state race led the Bears to a second-place finish. Now, she’s looking to take the next step individually and for her team.
“I didn’t expect to get any of the things I did, but of course I had a dream of doing that. I did a lot better than I thought, which was good, but of course I had my team that pushed me,” Prosceno said.
“I was very satisfied. Second as a freshman, I was like ‘OK, if I can do this, maybe I can get first next year.’ I was happy.”
Prosceno’s racing didn’t end at state, however.
After the season, she helped her club team, the Parker Panthers, win the national championship in the 13/14-year-old division at the National Junior Olympic Cross Country Championships in Florida. Prosceno finished the four-kilometer course in 14:20.2, good for 15th and All-American honors despite battling a cold leading up to the race.
“For her being young like she is, it’s a great experience for her,” Collins said.
Next year, Prosceno plans on racing in the Nike or Foot Locker national circuit, which could lead to recruitment from some top colleges.
While the potential is undeniable, Collins tried to maintain a manageable workload for a young runner who transitioned from high school cross country to club running without much of a break. She also plans to run track in the spring.
“I knew Isabella had a lot of talent and ability, but I wanted to remember she was a freshman,” Collins said. “We kept her miles pretty low.”
With natural speed and a runner’s build, Prosceno appears to have all the tools to a build a special future - not that there’s any rush.
“We’ve got plenty of time,” Collins said.
“I’m really looking forward to working with her the next couple years.”