Zach Winn

Equinox Staff


Junior runner Ryan Widzgowski ignored his pre-race seventh seed and finished second overall in this year’s NCAA Division III Indoor Track and Field Championships.

“It was nice to know my teammates and coaches were behind me,” Widzgowski said.  “Just knowing they believed in me gave me an extra boost.”

It was Widzgowski’s first time at nationals and Coach Peter Thomas said he wasn’t sure how he’d react to the added pressure.

“You never know if someone’s going to struggle their first time on that stage,” Thomas said.

Portrait By: Emily fedorko / Photo editor Ryan Widzgowski returns to KSC after placing second at the Division III NCAA National Championships in Naperville, Ill. on March 8, 2013.

Portrait By: Emily fedorko / Photo editor
Ryan Widzgowski returns to KSC after placing second at the Division III NCAA National Championships in Naperville, Ill. on March 8, 2013.

Senior runner Maggie Fitter, who was competing in her second national track final, said no one knew exactly what to expect.

“It’s just hard because anything can happen at that level,” Fitter explained.  “The margin for error shrinks.”

But Widzgowski and Thomas had a strategy.  Widzgowski explained that he was supposed to stick around the pack until the end of the race, saving energy for a final push.

“I was in the race hanging around,” Widzgowski said.  “But I felt great so I kept moving up the laps. I was able to perform my best.”

A sport that some see based solely on conditioning has many more layers when looked at closer.  The implemented strategy played a big difference in the way Widzgowski approached the race.

Another major component that often gets overlooked in track is mentality. Widzgowski said he was focused throughout the race.

“I wasn’t too nervous,” Widzgowski said.  “I knew I deserved to be out there.”

Fitter said mental preparation is the most important part. “It’s all mental,” Fitter said.  “I think anyone can go into that competition in the greatest shape of their life, but you have to be ready in your head.”

Widzgowski didn’t let any potential first-time jitters affect him.

“I don’t think [never having raced nationals before] was an advantage or disadvantage,” Widzgowski said.  “I was confident.  I went into it knowing I could race on a competitive stage so I don’t think it was a factor.”

As confident as he was, even Widzgowski didn’t expect to place as high as second.  The first eight finishers get All-American honors, and Widzgowski said he was just hoping for a spot in those eight.  So you can imagine his excitement after exceeding everyone’s expectations.

“It was a lot of emotions. It took a second to process what happened,” Widzgowski said.  “I had been thinking I could finish high but then actually doing it, I was overwhelmed with joy.  It was a great feeling.”

Anyone who says track isn’t a team sport need look no further than Widzgowski’s reaction after the race.  The exhausted runner made it clear he appreciated the support he got in training as he celebrated with his coach and teammates.

“I think we were all surprised that he finished as high as he did,” Fitter said.  “He deserved it and worked hard for it.  After the race we were just all really excited, congratulating him.  It’s always nice to see a teammate do well.”

But while Widzgowski is basking in his performance for now, he won’t let his success make him complacent.

“It was fun and a big confidence booster but I can’t let it get to my head because I still have to work hard if not harder to improve,” Widgowski said.

It’s hard to imagine improving after such an impressive season.  But, Widzgowski reasons, next year there’s always first place.


Zach Winn can be contacted at

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