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Baldwin runner makes most of opportunities, collects Karpa Award

submitted photo - Alicia Mastroianni
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>submitted photo</em></div>Alicia Mastroianni
submitted photo - Alicia Mastroianni
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>submitted photo</em></div>Alicia Mastroianni

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By Ed Phillipps
Wednesday, July 2, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Alicia Mastroianni had a dilemma.

As a standout soccer player and emerging cross country runner at Baldwin, she knew she could no longer keep up in both fall sports.

So for her senior year, Mastroianni made the decision to drop soccer and continue running.

It was a tough decision but one that ultimately paid off when Mastroianni, who ran cross country and track, set six personal records during her 2013-14 senior year that was capped off recently when she won the Karpa Award.

The Karpa Award is voted on by Baldwin coaches and is presented annually to a senior athlete displaying loyalty, devotion, sense of humor and a deep concern for others.

“Doing two sports took a toll,” said Mastroianni, who was an all-section soccer player and didn't take up running until her sophomore year. “Cross country just pulled me.”

The Lady Highlanders were 7-3 last year and completed their first winning season in more than a decade.

Mastroianni placed third when the Baldwin girls captured their first white division championship in their eighth year of competing at Virginia's Maymont X-Country Festival race in September.

“She was either 1, 2 or 3 in all of our meets,” said Rich Wright, Baldwin's cross country co-head coach and assistant track coach. “We had some good girls on our team and she always stood out. She was just a spark for our program.”

Mastroianni also ran indoor and outdoor track. She set personal records in all her competitions, including the 5K cross country race (20 minutes, 52 seconds); indoor 1,600 meters (5:56) and 3,200 (12:44) events; and outdoor 800 (2:34), 1,600 (5:43) and 3,200 (12:10) events.

“Alicia was a great athlete, student and team player the past four years at Baldwin High School,” said Vince Sortino, Baldwin's athletic director. “She was also very active away from the athletic fields, as she volunteered at many events that helped others who were in need of support. Alicia will be missed, and we wish her the best.”

Several area colleges were interested in Mastroianni, who graduated from Baldwin with a 4.1 grade-point average.

She decided to attend the University of Dayton, where she plans to major in engineering and run for the club cross country squad.

Despite not stepping on the pitch for over a year, Mastroianni received an offer to play for the women's soccer team at Penn State-Behrend.

“I did think about it for a while,” she said. “I do miss soccer sometimes, but I do realize I don't want to pursue it.”

Just like her decision to drop soccer and continue running, Mastroianni followed her heart when it came to selecting Dayton.

“Whenever I went for my visit, it made me really want to go there,” she said. “I stepped on the campus and absolutely loved it.”

Wright said Mastroianni will be missed, and not only for what she accomplished as an athlete. Her upbeat attitude and willingness to go above and beyond were infectious to other team members.

Baldwin's runners volunteer at several local races, including the Pittsburgh Marathon. Wright said he could always count on Mastroianni to pitch in and bring others on board.

“I guarantee if I called Alicia to help, she would show up with six to 10 people,” he said. “She would just go out of her way to help. She is a young lady who just stands out in my heart. She did so many things other than just run.”

That admiration went both ways.

Mastroianni credited Wright for helping her become a better runner, and initiatives like volunteering made her a better person.

“He's like a father to me,” she said. “He's so much more than a coach. I never met a coach like him, and I don't think I'll ever have another.”

Now that her time at Baldwin has come to an end, Mastroianni can rest easy knowing she made the right call in giving up soccer to chase her passion.

“It's probably one of the best decisions I ever made,” she said.

Ed Phillipps is a freelance writer.

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