Bizzarri eyes Team USA spot

Angela Bizzarri probably expected to be relaxing around this time of the year. After winning the 5,000 meters at the NCAA Outdoor Championships, she knew she’d have one more meet left. And then she’d be done.

But that’s not what happened, and, on Wednesday, Bizzarri finds herself in Belgium, competing at the Meeting International d’ athletisme de la Province de Liege (Liege for short) for a chance to represent Team USA at the World Championships in Berlin.

The turn of events started at the USA Track and Field Championships on June 26, when Bizzarri placed third in the 5,000 meters.

In the United States, anyone who places in the top three in his or her event at the USA Championships is eligible to represent Team USA at the World Championships, as long as they have met a qualifying standard at a previous meet.

While Bizzarri did place third, she had never met the 15 minute, 25 second ‘B’ standard for the 5,000 meters. So, soon after her finish at the USA Championships, she decided to race again to meet that standard.

The problem is, there were few races to choose from in the United States this late. The result was a trip Belgium, along with a hectic few weeks for Bizzarri.

“Before I ran USA, I really didn’t have it in my radar, so the last few weeks have been a surprise,” Bizzarri said.

Initially planning on some time off, Bizzarri now is entered to race in a country she’s never been to against opponents that she’s never heard of.

“A lot of little things will change, but in the end I’m still running 5,000 meters around the track,” Bizzarri said.

Illinois women’s track and field distance coach Jeremy Rasmussen said Bizzarri will have no shortage of runners to pace her.

“It’s gonna be fast,” Rasmussen said. “So if she gets in, sticks in with the group and competes against everybody, she has the opportunity to run fast.”

While Bizzarri doesn’t know who she’s competing against, it’s almost certain that her competitors haven’t heard of her, and that’s all right with Rasmussen.

“I think that Angela likes being the underdog and likes going under the radar because she enjoys going in with no pressure and just seeing how it goes,” Rasmussen said.

But after the past NCAA Championships and USA Championships, Rasmussen sees Bizzarri’s profile increasing, especially now that she’s racing on the international level.

“People start taking notice, especially with an orange jersey running around the track,” Rasmussen said. “It’s not a Nike or an Adidas or a professional team, it’s a college team, and so people will take notice that she’s still in college, and that will only help her.”

If Bizzarri hits the standard and makes it to the World Championships, she will be joined by a familiar face in Illinois head coach Tonja Buford-Bailey, who recently was named sprints/hurdles coach for Team USA. Bizzarri and the rest of the distance squad will be coached by Wake Forest’s Annie Bennett.