Tony Colizzi’s academic endeavors leap off his curriculum vitae. He was in college from 1984-98, taking only one semester off between undergraduate and graduate schools.
“My father told me he would support me as long as I stayed in college and I took full advantage of his generous offer,” Colizzi said. “I have an undergraduate degree in psychology with a strong emphasis in biology from James Madison University. I earned my first master’s degree in oceanography at Old Dominion University. I worked on a PhD for a few years before switching over to get a master’s in education also from Old Dominion University. During grad school is when I discovered that I really enjoyed teaching.”
His coaching background is just as interesting. When he arrived at Bishop England in the late 1990s, his only knowledge of competitive running came every four years when he watched the Olympics on television.
Today, he’s a South Carolina Track and Cross Country Coaches Association Hall of Fame member who built track and field and cross country at BE into model programs that accumulated 25 state championships since 2001.
But if you’ve seen Colizzi and his students running the streets of Daniel Island, preparing for track and cross country seasons during heat and humidity and frost and fall, the first thing you might ask is, “How many? How many miles have you run, Tony?
“I have never tracked the exact number of miles that I run with the team each year, but if I had to guess it would be between 600-700 miles per year,” said Colizzi, who was recently inducted into the hall of fame. “That would work out to be between 12,000 and 14,000 miles; 90 percent of which would be on Daniel Island.”
Colizzi is disciplined and demanding of himself. It’s the same for his student-athletes.
“The one thing I can tell you is that the athletes work very hard all year round to be the best track athletes they can be,” he said. “We train or condition five days a week, year-round.”
Running might have been the easy part of landing the head coaching job. The hard part might have been learning the sport on the fly to develop a foundation that would last and leave a legacy.
Perhaps the most memorable day of Colizzi’s tenure was in May 2001 when both the girls’ and boys’ teams won state titles, singing “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” Since then, the girls’ team has been to the mountain top 12 more times.
The one constant has been talent. And, the rest is the coaching staff. Two of his assistants have been at BE longer than Colizzi — Mike Kenny has been there 22 years and Laurie Borden has been there for 26 years.
“It has been fun to watch this team grow,” Colizzi said of the track and field program. “We have grown from a small team that didn’t even have a track to practice on, to a team that competes for the title year-in, year-out. Our first championships in 2001 were won when we still didn’t have a track. The track was built in the following fall.”
Colizzi also had a role in developing the cross country programs.
“When I started here, cross country was only a club sport at BE,” Colizzi said. “Cross country became an actual team my first year as an assistant. The girls team won their first state championship in only their second year as a team.”
And, the rest is history.