COLUMBUS — Even the unflappable Izzy Best had to admit she was surprised.
The Woodridge freshman capped an outstanding first year of high school track by finishing fourth in the Division II 800-meter run with a time of 2:14.48.
"It was a little nerve-wracking, but I loved it all," Best said.
Best has excelled all year at cross-country and then track and field, immediately carving out a reputation as one of Ohio’s best distance runners. In the fall, that included a Portage Trail Conference Metro Division title and a 44th-place finish at the state cross-country meet.
On Saturday in Columbus, she was the lone freshman — and one of just two underclassmen — to make podium. The other six spots on the podium all belonged to seniors.
To achieve all that as a freshman, does it surprise her?
"Yes," Best said. "Very much."
That said, Best has been chasing greatness for a long time. She practically grew up around the sport, starting when she was just six, inspired by her older brother, Tyler, who ran for Cuyahoga Falls.
"I liked it because I saw my brother winning," Best said.
In middle school, she focused on the 400, 800 and 1,600. As an eighth grader, she made state in the 200, 400, 800 and 1,600, running the first three events, including a middle-school state title in the 400.
Her title and time (58.93) in the 400 indicated that would likely be her event in high school. After all, 58.93 was already a state-caliber time in the high school 400.
Longtime Woodridge coach Jeff Howard had other ideas — and when Howard speaks, people tend to listen.
"I didn’t really think the 800 was going to be my race, but then this year came around and we figured it out," Best said.
Her tireless work ethic meant she was likely to succeed at whatever she tried. Best runs six days a week with the exception of the two weeks she takes off after each season concludes. During track season, she runs 35 miles a week — "not much," per Best, adding that she gets into the forties during cross-country season.
She runs streets, and given that she attends Woodridge, makes full use of Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
A world away from the tree-lined trails rambling along the Cuyahoga River, Best made herself at home in Columbus Saturday, leading halfway through the race.
"I knew what I had behind me," Best said. "I wanted to get out fast and see if I could hold it. I think I could have maybe chilled out a little bit more on the first lap, saved a little bit more for the end because I had nothing left. I was done."
Even so, even after a couple of runners passed her on the second lap, the freshman managed to finish strong, with only a trio of seniors managing to get ahead of her while she kept three more seniors in her rear-view mirror.