Beyond the Lines is a (bi)weekly profile story on a coach or athlete that goes beyond the fields and courts. The goal of these profiles is to discuss what makes them who they are—the core values they live by, their relationships with others, what is meaningful to them, and more. Beyond the coaching and student-athlete roles these individuals play, at the end of the day, we are all human.
August 1982: that was when Director of Cross Country and Track and Field Pete Colaizzo arrived on the campus of Marist College.
Just a few months prior, he had graduated from Whippany Park High School in northern New Jersey. He was a basketball player all four years and had only joined the high school track and field team his junior year.
Little did he know it, but in Marist and Poughkeepsie, he had found his home for the next four decades.
Colaizzo ran all four years for the track and field team at Marist and specialized in long-distance and marathon running. He grew tremendously as an athlete and even more as a person from his experiences in Poughkeepsie.
“I made some of my best friends in the four years that I was a student here,” Colaizzo said. “I’m still in touch with a lot of them. I had a very good professor, journalism professor David McCraw, who had a strong influence on me and taught me how to do journalism the right way. A lot of memories of fun trips with the team, going to meets, going on long runs with the guys hanging out.”
While Colaizzo was an undergraduate student, there existed a pub (called The Pub) on campus where students would drink beer on just about any day of the week at a time when the legal drinking age was 18 years old.
Tuesday nights were his favorite, as he and his roommate, Christian Morrison, would play songs on the jukebox and share a pitcher of beer. Morrison would do homework while Colaizzo read The New York Times.
He quickly grew to love the field of journalism; reading the news and having an influential journalism professor certainly made an impression on him. Upon graduation, he landed a job with The Poughkeepsie Journal.
“I worked at The Poughkeepsie Journal for almost 25 years full-time mostly in sports,” Colaizzo said. “I was a sports writer and editor. I did everything I wrote. Game stories, features, columns, the page layout. The last 15 years of my career there, I did a weekly recreational sports section called ‘Players.’ I did everything from soup to nuts. I would lay out the front page and write the headlines and assign stories and often write the stories.”
The job didn’t pay well, but to him, it didn’t matter. The satisfaction he gained from his work more than made up for the long hours. He compared writing to building a house, starting from nothing and creating something until it was completed.
“In my day, I would write a story, or a headline, or a section,” Colaizzo said. “And then at one in the morning, the basement of The Poughkeepsie Journal, the press would start running. The paper was literally hot when you took it off the press. I flipped to Section C, and I’d be like, I did that. There’s satisfaction in that.”
He worked with the journal until 2009 when he was laid off because of the Great Recession, but he still keeps in touch with his work friends, as they have an annual summer reunion at Palace Diner.
Despite no longer working in the journalism field, he still writes a column, which can be found on the publishing platform Substack. Known as “(Still) On the Run,” the column covers local runners and alumni; he hopes to expand it to road racing and other kinds of running while also keeping a personal blog up to date with results and pictures from each meet.
His love for writing runs deep, but that feeling also stems fron the fact that he reads – a lot. An avid reader since childhood, Colaizzo now “tears through audiobooks” when driving from one place to another. In the past month alone, he finished over five of them.
Reading and writing are two of his strongest passions, but Colaizzo’s biggest joy is running and coaching his track and field teams. He’s been a coach longer than he was a sports writer and editor – he’s in his 31st year now.
“The team is my hobby. It’s my job,” he said.
His teams have ranked regionally several times over the course of his coaching career while his runners have made the USTFCCCA All-Academic teams, the CoSIDA Academic All-District team, and the track and field Academic All-American team. The Marist Athletics website goes so far as to credit him with the “complete transformation” of the program since he joined in 1991.
Colaizzo has been through just about everything in coaching, but in a recent conversation with one of his runners, he was told a bible verse that would end up on the back of the track and field T-shirts.
“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another,” Colaizzo said.
“I think it’s Proverbs 27. That actually came from Tyler Perry, one of my athletes who, after a workout last year, I commented on how he and another athlete worked well together, and he goes ‘iron sharpens iron coach,’ and that just clicked for me.”
As a devout Catholic, Colaizzo does daily readings and tries to go to mass as much as he can. He doesn’t openly preach it or talk about it with his team, but on Sundays, he often sees some of his athletes attend mass on campus.
The verse from Proverbs 27:17 is often used as motivation, but it can also be interpreted as meaning “tough love.”
“It was an old-school upbringing. You do what your parents tell you. Just listen to your parents. Listen to your grandma. My grandmother was a big influence on me as well because my dad traveled a lot,” Colaizzo said.
Growing up in a bilingual household with Italian and English being the two languages, je lived with his parents Peter and Isabella, older siblings Bob, Richard, and Lucy, and grandmother Natalie in northern New Jersey. The memories his family made are never far off his mind.
“I mostly remember family gatherings, especially around the holidays,” Colaizzo said. “My grandmother was born on Christmas Day. So our tradition was we always celebrated on Christmas Eve, we opened presents on Christmas Eve, and we stayed up all night. We had all of the relatives from the Bronx and Yonkers come over, and we’d stay up all night and wait till my grandmother’s birthday. They’d be drinking, smoking, eating nuts.”
And for the last 24 years, he’s had a family of his own. He’s been married to his wife Heidi for nearly 30 years and they have three children together.
Their oldest is 24-year-old Joey, who was recently promoted to work as a cybersecurity officer in the Air Force. Their daughter is Natalie, named after Colaizzo’s grandmother, and is a junior at Siena College studying environmental science. Their youngest is James, a junior in high school, who taught himself how to woodwork during the pandemic and builds bookshelves for people. The family also has six chickens, three dogs, and a turtle; plenty of animals to keep them busy.
The date is now February 2023; nearly 41 years after Colaizzo arrived on campus as an undergraduate student.
He wanted to become a journalist and did. He wanted to be a teacher and did as a coach. Over the years, he’s made lifelong friends from both jobs, won multiple awards, got married, and had children.
The director of cross country and track and field has plenty more to experience. He has more memories to create with his family, more meets to coach, more masses to attend, more audiobooks to fly through, and more Substack stories to write. He’s (still) on the run through life.
Edited by Jonathan Kinane and Luke Sassa
Photo from Pete Colaizzo