Jennifer Caldwell Iapichino, a 2000 graduate of East Clinton, has, along with her husband Jason, three children — Enzo, 4, Siena, 2, and Bello, 9 months.
Like any parent, she is teaching her children life lessons.
“Just in general, have a good attitude no matter what you’ve been handed,” says Iapichino, who now lives in New Orleans. “Our oldest, 4, is just starting to grasp that now. If you work hard, things will work themselves out. Do the right thing, be positive, treat people well.
“Whatever doesn’t go your way, just deal with it and move on. Keep your chin up.”
Now, lest you think Iapichino is simply reciting the first chapter of the Parenting 101 guidebook, think again.
She’s lived those rough times in athletics and worked her way through to win two state championships in track and field. Those titles — both in the 300-meter hurdles — came two years apart with a blown knee in between.
Caldwell and her family moved to Sabina between her eighth grade and freshman years. She grew up in the Lucasville area. Her sister Christy was nearly 10 years older and an excellent role model. Christy went to West Point and ran track and field, Iapichino said.
As the younger sister, Iapichino remembers attending her sister’s high school meets and jumping rope to keep occupied.
“Christy’s friends parents called me ‘Jump Rope,’ they didn’t call me by my name,” she said.
So Iapichino wanted to be involved in track and field. And she wanted to be good, so it was a blessing that Jeff Lawley was her coach early on at ECHS. A standout athlete in his own right, Lawley “validated how dedicated I was. I wasn’t on an island. Jeff was right there. He was a big boost for me that year.”
As a freshman, Iapichino finished sixth in the state Div. II 300-meter hurdles in Columbus. She clocked 45.54, less than two seconds off the winning time.
“It was really terrible … at least in my mind,” she said.
Iapichino turned that unsettled feeling around as a sophomore. She finished third in the 100-meter hurdles in 15.51 seconds but then had the 300 hurdles still to come.
“It was very apparent early on, the 300s were my strong suit,” she said. “I needed a little extra distance for everybody else to slow down. Mentally I thought of the 100s as something I wanted to do as well as I could, but also they were a good warmup. They kept me occupied. They helped get the jitters out. I couldn’t imagine if I didn’t have the 100s. The 300s were so late, I would have been a basket case.”
Iapichino was looking forward to defending her state title her junior year but a right knee injury during basketball season put Iapichino on the shelf for a year. She had no doubt, however, that she’d be ready when the time came to win another state championship.
“I always kinda figured it was mine to lose; if I lost it was my fault,” she said. “I felt confident. I think I was just immature and didn’t necessarily consider everything that could have happened. Mom and dad were optimistic. They were glass half full people.”
Iapichino found out later the doctor “pulled him (her dad) aside and said you have to be prepared that your daughter may come back and flounder.”
She did not. Iapichino ran 14.98 in the 100-meter hurdles and finished fourth. She came back to “defend” her 300 hurdles title by running a 44.2 and winning by nearly a half-second.