“She’s very unselfish,” Christman said. “She would give up an individual title if it meant helping the team. You seldom run across a kid like that.”
Running with and past Assinzo was something opponents were seldom able to do this year.
The junior recently completed a year at Marietta, claiming runner-up honors at the Class AAAAAA state cross country championship in fall, then returning in the spring to win the 800- and 1,600-meter titles at the track and field state championships.
Assinzo shaved as much as 2 seconds off the best cross country time of her sophomore season, crossing the line in 19 minutes, 13.48 seconds to finish second to Walton’s Avery Bussjager at the state meet.
When she made it to Albany for the state final in the 1,600, Assinzo posted a personal-best time of 5:02.74, moving from fifth place with 300 meters left in the race into fourth at the 200-meter mark. Assinzo outraced her competition down the stretch, marking a 12-second improvement off her previous personal best.
She then used a similar formula in capturing the 800 title two days later, in a time of 2:13.44.
“Her speed is her strong suit,” Marietta cross country coach Jack Coleman said.
It wasn’t just Assinzo’s speed that helped her progress last season.
Everything had to change.
“Before cross country season, I told myself that this would be my year to focus,” Assinzo said. “I just had to get rid of everything else that didn’t help me in running. I trained hard, no matter if I was tired and I didn’t feel like getting up to run. I had to do it and get it done for the day.
“I realized that it’s not just about the running. It’s about the eating habits. It’s about sleeping and doing everything right and necessary to come out and have a good practice session. I just decided that it’s probably going to be a boring year, because I won’t get to do anything, but as long as I get those rings, I’ll be fine.”
Which is what happened for Assinzo, the 2013-14 Marietta Daily Journal/Cobb County Female Athlete of the Year.
“Getting that award is a great testament to her hard work,” Coleman said. “That’s been the key to her success. She took care of herself, and she still has an incredible upside to her. She had to learn the effort that’s required to succeed, and she took to it. Her commitment led to her having a great season.”
It didn’t start out that way.
Inspired by her brother, Roland, Assinzo started running the 800 in middle school.
“It’s my favorite race,” she said. “I fell in love with it. I love chasing people and getting them at the end, and I love being able to see who’s tougher. It’s a tough race. It’s a sprint for two laps, basically. It’s a 400 twice, so I really enjoy it, to see how tough you are and how long you can hold off.”
When Assinzo reached high school, Coleman and Christman helped her realize her potential. She ran the 800 as a freshman and didn’t join the cross country team until her sophomore year.
“She didn’t know she was a distance runner,” Coleman said, “so we brought her along and watched her progress. She trained during the offseason and went into her junior year with a lot of confidence at the longer distances. She had some hiccups along the way, but you could tell she was a special talent.”
Assinzo’s talent helped her win the Region 4AAAAAA cross country championship and the region 1,600 crown, and her love for running will keep her passionate for more.
“She takes to training easily and she enjoys running,” Coleman said. “It doesn’t bother her, whether she’s running by herself or with her teammates. She just wants to be out there.”
“She epitomizes what happens when talent and coaching come together,” Christman said.