By Jeanne Sager
GRAHAMSVILLE November 14, 2003 Youre going to hear about Heather Iatauro again someday.
Shes just 17, but this girl has plans.
Shes about to finish high school, and shes already been assured a spot on NCAA Division I Princetons track team.
Shes the proverbial student athlete. Her grades are top of her class. Shes set to be valedictorian of the Tri-Valley Central School Class of 2004.
Oh yeah, and shes the United States number one steeplechase runner.
Iatauro has dreams far beyond her small hometown.
She wants to go to the Olympics. She wants to represent her country, and shes not going to stop until she cant run anymore.
Iatauro has been running since second grade. The daughter of a former marathon runner who made it into the United States Olympic trials, and the athletic director at Tri-Valley, sports have always been her thing.
She started playing everything she could get her hands on, until one day Iatauro realized running was her true passion.
I discovered I was good at running, she recalled. I like being good at something, having the feeling of people chasing me.
Running kind of takes your mind off of things, Iatauro continued. Youre out there on your own.
Between schoolwork, time with her family and other school responsibilities, Iatauro still manages to train six days a week.
She thinks nothing of running 12 miles on an average weekend.
She spends time on the track at the school, on the roads by her Grahamsville home.
I do very long, tiresome distance running, she said. I do barrier workouts in practice, I just keep going.
Iatauro has been in races all over the country. She learned to run against competition in the Hudson Valley, and shes perfected her own artform on the track against some of the countrys best.
Missy and Joe Iatauro have coached their daughter at Tri-Valley, and they want to give her exposure to the competition thats out there beyond Section IX. They want her to get a chance to live the dream.
Coming from such a small school, no one notices you unless you prove yourself against the best, Iatauro explained, so my parents are big on exposure.
She finished first in the steeplechase at the national event for high school girls. She holds state titles, sectional titles, local titles.
She can run the steeplechase in 6:53, and shed rather be doing that than anything else.
Its not really a test of who has the best lung capacity, Iatauro said of her chosen event. You have to push off barriers, land in water, it tests different things.
Interest came in from a number of schools, including Stanford, Duke and Princeton.
An impromptu visit at the New Jersey school didnt go well, but when Iatauro returned to the campus, hosted by two other Tri-Valley graduates, she fell in love with the Ivy League school.
She met with the coach and signed on for four years.
Im looking forward to being on a team, she said. Usually Im out there running alone.
I dont really care about getting out of here, getting away from my parents, but Id like to not be coached by my parents, Iatauro continued. Not that theyre bad, theyre good coaches, but this will be something different.
Iatauro knows shell have to put in a lot of effort to do as well in college as she has on the high school level, but shes no stranger to hard work.
In addition to track and cross country, Iatauro has juggled FBLA, playing flute in the band, National Honor Society and Student Council in her schedule. This year shes spending most of her time at Sullivan County Community College to get a jump on the credits shell need to finish an aerospace engineering degree at Princeton.
Its really, really hard, she said. Usually Im up until 2:30 a.m. or later its a lot of late nights, but its worth it.
This is what Iatauro wants.
I want to be an NCAA champion, she said. And after that, who knows.
I do look at the Olympics; I want to try to top my mom, she said.
Knowing theres so many good people out there, you always have to do your best, Iatauro explained. Its painful, but its worth it.
Name: Heather Iatauro
School and grade: 12th, Tri-Valley Central School
Parents and siblings: Iatauro is the daughter of Joe and Missy Iatauro. Her brother Joe, 21, was also a runner at Tri-Valley.
Favorite sport: Track
Favorite professional athlete: Olympic runner Suzy Hamilton
Favorite subject: Spanish
Future plans: Iatauro has committed to running at Princeton next fall.