Track Athlete Steve Rizzo Awarded with Coach Wooden Citizen Cup

Of all the exceptional collegiate athletes across the three divisions and countless sports, only one gets selected for the annual Coach Wooden Citizen Cup. Alongside two high schoolers and one professional athlete its regarded as one of the highest honors in sports.

Previous winners includes the likes of Peyton Manning, Mia Hamm, and Pat Summitt. The award recognizes athletes for their extraordinary accomplishments on the field and their dedication to their community through their service and giving back.

The single collegiate athlete nominated for this year’s award happens to be Marist College track captain, Steven Rizzo. Rizzo is a senior this year that runs the mile, 1500m, 3000m, and heavily participates in volunteer programs in his local community of Wappingers Falls, NY all while maintaining a 4.0 GPA.

The Circle Sports sat down with Rizzo to talk the cup, the nomination, and what it means to represent Marist College on a national stage.

Circle Sports: What is it like balancing a full academic schedule, 4.0 GPA, and the responsibility of participating in a D1 sport at such high level?

Steven Rizzo: I like being busy and have learned to pace myself both on and off the track. Race mentality can be applied to more things than just running. I have been able to apply it to projects and test preparation and this has helped me excel in the classroom.

CS: What are some of the off-track activities that you have participated in that have qualified you for the award?

SR: I have always taken community service to heart and that passion has inspired me to play an active role in my community. My service includes many hundreds of hours volunteering at the Knights of Columbus in Wappingers Falls, where I did everything from serve food to the elderly and emergency response units to partaking in events that helped fund raise for organizations such as the Special Olympics. I also spent a good portion of time volunteering for my local mayor as we prepared grant proposals to help fundraise for a sewage and watershed revitalization project.

CS: Only a single collegiate athlete is nominated from the field, how does it feel to be recognized from such a large field of collegiate athletes?

SR: It is so hard to wrap my head around. I feel so grateful. What excites me the most is being able to represent Marist College in a national spotlight. What I have been able to accomplish as a student-athlete speaks to all of the amazing people who I have been able to grow close with and learn from throughout the years here. I feel great knowing knowing that I get to give my school the thanks it deserves in front of a much larger audience than I am used to. I have never been so proud to be a Red Fox.

CS: What are some of your favorite memories from being a track athlete?

SR: I’m blessed to say that I have so many great memories from being a track athlete at Marist.
My favorite memories come from watching my teammates shatter school records and reach personal best times in their respective events. As much as I love to compete myself, I have always loved to hype-up my teammates by screaming my lungs off for them as they approach the bell lap. These are the guys and girls I get to train with everyday and witness put in the hours upon hours of hard work to be better. There is no better feeling than to see their hard work pay off on meet day. This year, leading the team as their captain has been my greatest accomplishment. Technically speaking, my greatest accomplishments on the track include being a part of a school record-setting 4x1500 meter relay last year, breaking the 15-minute barrier in the 5k and making it on to Marist’s best all-time 5k list, and qualifying for prestigious meets such as IC4A’s. I am also proud of my personal bests in individual events but the plan is to improve on these times a lot in the coming season.

CS: Past recipients include athletes like Mia Hamm, Peyton Manning, Pat Summitt, and others... how does it feel to share their company by being nominated for the award?

SR: It is more than humbling. These are people I have always looked up to growing up. They were my superheroes. Admiring their success subliminally pushed me to be the best leader and athlete that I could be and continues to do so.

CS: The Wooden Cup is regarded as the highest award in all college sports, how does this nomination make you reflect on all your hard work on and off the track?

SR: This nomination makes me realize how grateful I am to have had the teammates and coaches that I did here at Marist. They have helped me get through some of my toughest times as a student-athlete and watching them overcome their own obstacles has made me
a much stronger person. My teammates and coaches were my biggest sources of motivation. I owe so much of my drive to work hard to them because, as my family, they never lost faith in me.