Lexi Del Gizzo: How She Sprinted to the Top


Courtesy of Lexi Del Gizzo

Elena Goiria, Staff Writer

One Tuesday afternoon, at about 3:30 p.m., I was getting ready to warm up for track, a mundane activity that I both dread and look forward to. I went into the field house where the coaches were waiting for the athletes to sign in before starting their workouts. As they looked for my name on the list, I mentioned that I was going to write a narrative article about Lexi Del Gizzo (’17), a former Tenafly track star who currently holds the school records for the 400m and the 800m. I’d seen her name before while walking past the blue lockers that surround the hallway leading to the gym. Every time, I’d stare at the golden print of her name, event, and time under the wooden “Track and Field Records” sign, and I’d subtract her times from my times to see how much I needed to improve; it was a lot of seconds. 

When I mentioned this athlete, my coach’s eyes lit up. “Come here and sit,” he ordered. I did as he said. He pulled out his phone and browsed for something while my eyes curiously peeked to see what he was going to show me. Finally, he handed me the phone. On the screen was a video of about 15 girls who were running around a track. The timer in front of them read “1:05,” meaning that if they were running the 800m, they had one lap left. My coach pointed at a tall, tan brunette with a black shirt who was almost last among the group of girls. “Keep your eyes on her.” The girls ran. The sun glistened above the group of competitors as they moved rhythmically in a lap, clustered together. At this point, I could not see Del Gizzo as some runners left the group and started going faster. They were far ahead of her. Then, a girl with a long ponytail appeared on the screen, almost floating through the air with her long strides. She started cutting her competition, placing herself in front of them. First she passed a blonde girl. Then a brunette, and then a blonde again. Nobody had seen her coming. In the last straightaway of the track, as the cheers of the audience muted the sport commentator’s narrations, the Tenafly athlete sprinted and sprinted, unexpectedly positioning herself in front of her rivals. She crossed the finish line as the green luminescent numbers on the screen showed “2:10.” I was flabbergasted. Del Gizzo had cut about 10 people in less than a minute. What seemed like an impossible task, in unarguably the hardest sprint event in track and field, she had done in only two minutes and 10 seconds. However, Del Gizzo didn’t seem to care about what was hard or what was considered impossible. Del Gizzo is here to win, no matter the hurdles on the way.

Del Gizzo’s aptitude for sports did not start with track; in fact, she did horseback riding throughout elementary and middle school. In elementary school, she enjoyed playing soccer and T-ball, though she realized that what she mostly enjoyed was what tied all of those sports together: running. Her neighbor, who was two years her senior and a good friend of Tenafly alumna and track and field athlete Josette Norris (’14), was a member of the Tenafly Cross Country and Track Team, and she introduced her to the sport. Del Gizzo started doing track and field in middle school, and later in high school, though she only ran the 100, 200, and 400m. But in junior year, former track and field coach and current cross country coach Dave Burns got an idea. Del Gizzo was already an outstanding sprinter, but there was something missing.  

“Burns had some vision of me being an 800 runner,” Del Gizzo explained. “So I decided to give it a shot, and it just really fell into place.”

The 800-meter race consists of running two laps around an outdoor track (or four in an indoor one). It is known as being the race for the runners who enjoy suffering. In a study, the New York Times interviewed three Olympic runners to highlight the difference between types of running. In a segment of the interview, they asked participants about the first thing they thought about when someone mentioned the 800m. One hundred-meter sprinter TyNia Gaither said, “Psychoticness.” Marathon runner Jared Ward said, “Being sick after racing.” “It’s not fun,” 800m runner Olivia Baker said. “I tell people if I had the speed to be a 100 and 200 runner I would never run the 800. Unfortunately, that is not where my talent lies,” she laughed. Del Gizzo thinks similarly of her main event. When asked if the 800 was her favorite event, she simply cackled and said, “No. Nobody likes the 800.” 

Nonetheless, this doesn’t stop her from excelling at it. During junior year, she started doing the endurance workouts that Coach Burns told her to do. “It was all about the endurance training,” Del Gizzo said. “Like, I already had the speed part.” She officially started running the 800 at spring track meets. Although this event was very new to Del Gizzo, a sprinter, she believes that her inexperience in the event was what eventually led her to triumph. “Everything I did was always just fresh to me,” she explained. “Every race had some type of improvement because I was just so new to it.” Though starting a new event like the 800 can be intimidating, Del Gizzo had full trust in Burns; luckily, he was right and helped shape a track star. “It was really him that, like, put together almost like the perfect recipe for my training to improve an 800.” Through training and dedication, Del Gizzo was able to “have a mutual relationship with the 800.” She also believes that the encouragement and support from her parents increased her love and commitment to the sport. “It made me feel a lot more confident that they believed I could do something like this,” she admits. 

Being part of the Tenafly Track and Field team was an unforgettable experience for Del Gizzo. The team was inclusive and close-knit, and she was able to build strong relationships with its members. “Honestly, if it wasn’t with those people and like how fun it was, I don’t think I could’ve done what I’ve done in track,” she claimed. She states that the athletes were strong, focused, and dedicated, with the common goal of “wanting to be the best that [they] could be.” The meets were also a very important part of her life. She stated that she will always remember the Leagues meet of her sophomore year Winter Track season. Tenafly was able to rise to victory for the first time in a very long time, which was memorable for her and the rest of the members of the team. Additionally, she was also able to compete in Nationals in a Sprint Medley Relay, in which her team was victorious in her heat. “Being able to see that happen was really special,” she remembered.

Del Gizzo has won her fair share of titles, including the Athlete of the Season awards in both the winter and spring several times, the North Jersey Athlete of the Year, the 1st team All-State in her junior year, and the All-American in her senior year. However, her favorite title by far is the North Jersey Athlete of the Week. “I always wanted Athlete of the Week because of the newspaper drawing that they do,” Del Gizzo explained. “And I didn’t get it until the end of my senior year and I was so upset, ’cause like, why can’t they just give me athlete of the week?”

Courtesy of Lexi Del Gizzo

Her success in track and field followed her to Georgetown University, where she joined the D1 Georgetown Hoyas track and field team. Like most 800 runners, her 800m teammates came from a distance background, and so Del Gizzo had to do more endurance-related workouts. This was hard enough, and she still had to add the struggles of starting a new chapter of life in college. “When you go to college, you’re on your own for the first time,” Del Gizzo explained. “You’re balancing your social life, your academics, and your athletic life. So just being able to juggle all three can be pretty difficult, and it takes time to figure that out.” Nonetheless, Del Gizzo managed to strive in all three factors and graduated from Georgetown in 2021. She is currently getting her master’s degree in nursing. Though she does not plan on pursuing track in the future, she still runs in her free time and states that she will always love the sport that made up such a big chapter of her life.

For any aspiring track and field athletes, Del Gizzo recommends that you “trust the process.” She claims that although you might want to get quick results, it takes time to improve and the wait is worth it. She also states that you should never be too hard on yourself. “As long as you know you did what you were supposed to do, you put it all out there, you took advice from your coaches, or mentors or whoever,” Del Gizzo says, “that’s all you can do and you can’t really beat yourself up about it.”