Ever since she was a member of the Madison Middle School cross country team, Alessandra Zaffina knew she loved running, especially distance running.

Zaffina’s affinity for running has translated into an incredible scholastic cross country career at Trumbull High, and culminated with her receiving All-New England honors this past weekend.

Zaffina will attend Quinnipiac University next fall to run for the Bobcats’ cross country program. A three-time All-FCIAC and All-State honoree, Zaffina received interest from Division I schools, including Monmouth, Siena, Northeastern, Fairfield and the University of Hartford.

“I chose Quinnipiac because it fit everything I needed. It has always been a dream to run Division I and I wanted to major in Physical Therapy. Quinnipiac has a great PT program,” Zaffina said. “I really liked the coaches. They remind me of the coaches I have now.

“The team was great and I felt really comfortable with them. I really liked the running program they have established and could see myself succeeding in it. Furthermore, it is a beautiful campus and close to home.”

Zaffina will follow in the footsteps of former Trumbull teammates Kate Romanchick (a junior at UConn) and Maggie LoSchiavo (a freshman at Central Connecticut) to run at Division I schools.

Zaffina’s love of running and her success emanates from her head coach Jim McCaffrey, who has in his eight-year tenur, made Trumbull one of the most successful girls cross country programs in the state.

In the last three seasons, McCaffrey’s Eagles, led by Zaffina and a talented group of runners, have made three consecutive berths to the New England Interscholastic Championships — one of just three Connecticut schools (Danbury and Glastonbury) to do so.

This year, the Eagles were the FCIAC runner-up for the second straight season. They followed up with a second-place finish at the Class LL state meet. Trumbull then placed third at the State Open to earn a New England berth, where ast weekend the Eagles achieved their highest finish (5th).

“A program’s success is predicated on three things: establishing goals that athletes can buy into, themes that they feel are authentic, and creating a family atmosphere,” McCaffrey said. “Our runners get our system because we always start with why, and then how, to achieve the what. Our runners are intelligent racers, not just fast; they are unselfish, humble, and driven.”

The steady and consistent performance of Zaffina is one of the major reasons for Trumbull’s recent success. A varsity standout since her freshman season, Zaffina has had an incredible senior season, finishing in the top 10 in the FCIAC (5th), Class LL (6th) and State Open (9th) meets.

On Nov. 9, Zaffina held her own against the best runners in New England, placing 19th with a season-best time of 19:02. What made the effort even more satisfying was that Zaffina had missed All-New England honors a year ago by one place.

“Coach McCaffrey has pushed me to try and be not only the best runner, but the best person I can be. He is the definition of inspiring,” Zaffina said. “He has found ways to keep me going even when I thought I couldn’t anymore. He has taught me to believe in myself and that I am stronger than I think. He truly cares about helping us be the best we can be.”

“Amazing,” is the word Zaffina used when asked to describe her experience running cross country for Trumbull. “Cross country is where I have made some of my best friends and been part of the most amazing family,” she said. “Cross country has taught me what it’s like to be part of a team, and to dig in for my dreams and to not be afraid to take a chance. It has helped me grow competitively and emotionally.”

McCaffrey said: “I have known Ally since she was in fifth grade and started attending our summer Mini Eagles Track and Field Camp. Many coaches would tell you they remember a star runner’s first strides or their talent early on, but it was her smile and joy in achieving success that was memorable and timeless for me. Her legacy will be one I use to motivate future runners.”