Dr. Phillips grad, Brown commit Isabela Bartczak finished prep running career strong | Observer Preps
When Isabela Bartczak walked across the stage at the Amway Center May 24 for Dr. Phillips High School’s Commencement, it was a figurative exclamation point on a pretty great senior year.
Bartczak, a four-year runner for Dr. Phillips’ cross-country and track teams, committed to her dream school — Brown University — two weeks ago. Before that, on May 8, she was recognized by athletic directors from around the state with the Mandy Stoll Scholar-Athlete Award, along with the $500 scholarship that comes with it.
Last week, at Dr. Phillips High’s Athletics Banquet, she received the Principal’s Award for girls cross country and the Bill Spoone Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year award.
She was even named Orange County Public Schools’ Female Student-Athlete of the Year May 21.
This all caps a year in which she placed third in the state in Class 4A in cross-country and sixth in the state in Class 4A in the 3200-meter run.
It’s safe to say that it has been an exciting — and rewarding — end to a high-school career that involved a little bit of good fortune and a lot of hard work.
“I’m pretty proud, because it’s not something that just came to me, or I was just given — it’s something I really worked for,” Bartczak said. “I didn’t start out well (at running), at all. … When I started running, I actually hated it, and I was really bad at it.”
There were a handful for turning points for Bartczak that helped set her on her current path. As a freshman, she witnessed a teammate on the Dr. Phillips cross-country team receive a letter from Columbia University.
“I thought that was just amazing,” Bartczak recalled. “So I thought, ‘If I work hard and excel in this, maybe that could be me in the future — running for a really good school.’ And then I fell in love with it.”
She did just that — first under the tutelage of Jorge and Angie Fleitas, the husband-and-wife duo that coached Dr. Phillips’ cross-country and track teams her freshman and sophomore years, and later for current coach Laura Kirkikis.
Bartczak credits her relationship with Angie Fleitas, in particular, as pivotal when she wasn’t sold on the sport.
“She’s the one who really got me into running, and she’s been like a second mom to me,” Bartczak said. “She’s someone I’ll have for the rest of my life.”
“I definitely think that if I didn’t have sports, I don’t think I’d be as good of a student."
Bartczak learned to embrace the metal aspect of the sport — she said she enjoys longer races, where she has more time to think and strategize — and as she describes it, “push past the pain.”
Over time, she became a role model for the program.
“(Isabela is) great because she knows so much about the sport and cares so much,” Kirkikis said. “She’s very helpful with the younger girls and the J.V. team — she likes to be involved. She helps younger girls understand what we do, and they see her working hard.”
Bartczak credits her participation in sports for helping her stay focused in the classroom, noting it required time management to manage her schoolwork, sports and the clubs and volunteering she did.
“I definitely think that if I didn’t have sports, I don’t think I’d be as good of a student,” Bartczak said.
All that hard work in the classroom and on the track culminated in her being recruited by, among other schools, Brown. The school is one of the elite institutions that always had been at the top of Bartczak’s list. There, she plans to studying international relations there and build off of a lifelong love of traveling for the native of Brazil.
“This is definitely my dream school, and I’m honestly shocked that I made it — it’s kind of amazing and I still don’t believe it,” Bartczak said. “(International relations) is a really broad field, so I’m going to take a few classes and see what I want to specialize in.”
Graduation is an exciting time for any senior, and perhaps a little more so if you have the kind of opportunities afforded to a student-athlete poised to compete at the next level. Of course, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a tinge of nostalgia for this star student-athlete as Dr. Phillips goes from being the school she attends to her alma mater.
“I think Dr. Phillips has definitely opened so many doors for me,” Bartczak said.