Update: Cozean won the SCC individual title on Thursday at East Shore Park and Xavier won the team championship for the fourth consecutive year and 13th time overall.
By Paul Augeri
Xavier senior Robbie Cozean, who has made his mark as an elite runner at the state, regional and national levels, has committed to run cross country and track at Notre Dame next fall.
“I’m excited to start this next chapter of my academic and athletic career,” Cozean said in a statement released by the school Tuesday.
His decision is as big a moment for Xavier as it is for Cozean, who has been injury-free for the last year. Winning performances have followed: in the 5,000 meters at the New Balance Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Oregon last June; at the Wickham Park Invitational last weekend, his first title in that race; and at the Bowdoin Cross Country Classic in New York in late September.
“We’ve had a lot of athletes compete at the Division I level,” said Xavier coach Chris Stonier, singling out the Curran brothers, Owen at Providence College and Will at New Hampshire, “but this is a big step. Notre Dame is a national caliber school, both athletically and academically.
“One of the things, when I asked Robbie what tipped the scale in Notre Dame’s direction, they were going to be competing for a national championship immediately, so in that regard it is a big deal for us and for him.”
Cozean won the Wickham Invite in near-perfect conditions in 15 minutes, 35 seconds. He will return there for the CIAC Class L meet on Oct. 26 and the State Open on Nov. 1 as Xavier tries to win its third straight team championship.
“This is my ninth year at Xavier, and I have not seen an athlete with the total package that Robbie has,” Stonier said, “and I mean that in terms of academic and athletic maturity. The mental fortitude Robbie has — he is as equally talented intellectually as he is athletically, and that makes for a dangerous opponent.
“He is really something special. We realized that early on, we just needed to keep him healthy. It’s been 12 straight months now of him being healthy, with continuous running and continuous training, and performing at a level we always knew he was capable of.”
Cozean’s promise was evident as early as the eighth grade in Madison, when he had a second-place finish in the National Junior Olympics. His career at Xavier began with a fifth-place finish at the State Open and a national title in cross country before injury derailed his sophomore fall and spring seasons and made for a late jump into competition his junior year.
It was at that point, Stonier said, that he started to see Cozean blossom as a leader.
“When he was younger, his leadership was more or less by behavior before practice, during practice, after practice in the weight room, doing all the extra things that a lot of other athletes wouldn’t do unless they were told to do it.”
“In the past year or two, that changed,” Stonier said. “Robbie would not skip on opportunities to teach his teammates a lesson, or give advice, or motivate them when they were feeling down or intimidated by the competition coming up, whether it was a dual meet or a national competition or Bowdoin. His leadership is top notch.”
Cozean and the Falcons will compete in the SCC championship meet Thursday at East Park.
“Robbie is the perfect ambassador for Xavier and high school sports,” athletic director Matt Martorelli said in the school’s statement. “He understands what it means to fully dedicate yourself to your team and your teammates. We’re extremely proud of everything he has done for our school and we can’t wait to see what he does next as he takes this great step forward with an elite college running program. He’s earned this.”