SALUZZO, Italy –Alyssa Sauro’s world-class speed was fully realized on Sunday, as the Williamstown High distance runner came away victorious during the International U18 Mountain Running Cup. The field featured dozens of runners from around the world, as Sauro outran all of them to claim the win in 18:03. In the months leading up to the race through Saluzzo, Italy’s tricky terrain, Sauro and her coaches prepared by having her run in places with steep inclines to simulate the mountainous setting. In total, the 3.35 kilometer race (which comes out to 2.7 miles for any Americans keeping track, saw Sauro pushed to her absolute limit. Still, she got the job done.
“I had no idea this would happen,” Sauro admitted of her win. “This is such a dream come true. It’s just amazing. I didn’t know too much about anyone going in, but I said congratulations (to England’s Rebecca Flaherty), and she said the same to me. The uphills were really hard. We went to Old Pike Hill. It’s like, a mile up (located in St. Marys). It was really challenging, but it’s great to get better with the coaches
Flaherty finished just a couple seconds off Sauro’s winning pace, as the international cross country gold medalist couldn’t keep up with Sauro’s biggest asset: her final gear. Through rigorous training, Sauro navigated the race with precision.
“Mike and Cliff Taylor did her training workouts with her before she went over there,” assistant cross country coach Larry Cassady said. “We just found out a couple months ago that she was going to be running over there, and we were still going into the regional and the state meet. We had to be really careful with her training. After we got the state meet taken care of, she started training for the race over there. That race consisted of steps and some pretty significant hills. We took her over to Marietta and let her run on those middle school steps over there. Cliff took her down to St. Marys and put her on a hill that’s about a mile up (on route 16).”
Cassady added that Sauro kept her blistering pace up after the state meet, as she was locked in for months.
Head cross country coach Mike Taylor saw the best of Sauro this past season, as she notched a second-place finish in the state cross country meet in Ona.
She also broke a myriad of school and state records en route to helping the WHS girls’ track team to a third-straight state championship. Individually, she won the 800, 1600 and 3200 meter titles in Charleston.
“We talked about getting her on that (international) team, and we thought she’d be a good candidate for it,” he said. “It turns out she got selected, so we looked through some past events they had over there. We saw that she had to run up a bunch of stairs and steep hills. We trained her to mimmick that course, so it wouldn’t be unfamiliar to her. The elevation gain over there is about 500 feet. We also went up to Wayne National Forest next to Frontier High School and used the trails, so we utilized all that and the Broughton trails just trying to mimmick the race the best we could.”
That strategy for Sauro was a winning one. Not only was this victory symbolic of her hard work, but it serves as just one memory in a whole list of them for the cross country standout.
The experience for Sauro is one she won’t soon forget, as the sophomore-to-be recalled all the things that made her time in Italy so memorable.
“We would go out for coffee and go out for bike rides,” Sauro said of what she did with her American teammates during any downtime they had. “Those were fun times, just to spend time with the team and the coaches.”
Sauro was one of seven Americans to make the trek to Italy, as three other girls from across the States (Rosie Mucharsky-O’Boyle, Milaina Almonte and Victoria Rodriguez) made up the four-person, U.S. girls’ team. Now, Sauro is taking a beat just to catch her breath before the next moment in her young running career.
“Saluzzo is such a pretty place, and the team there was obviously amazing. We all had a really good time, and the course was really fun and challenging,” she said. “This is a moment to cool down. I think I’m going to put some miles into running cross, but I’m just going to chill a little bit for now. I couple years ago, I didn’t really think I would be where I am today without my friends, family and coaches. The community has donated so much, and I really appreciate every single company that donated. Everybody helped chip in for that flight, and I really appreciate everyone.”
Contact Josh Hughes at email@example.com.