Malibu’s Pietrzyk Wins Oak Park Cross Country Invitational

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Caroline Pietrzyk returns as the state’s top-ranked runner in Division IV. 

If you have never seen Caroline Pietrzyk compete, now is the time. 

The Malibu High superstar began her senior season of cross country with a bang, winning the Oak Park Invitational last week. Pietrzyk picked up where she left off last fall, conquering an elite field of runners at Oak Canyon Park with a strong time of 17:40. The next nearest competitor, Oak Park’s Emily Beneduce, was 33 seconds behind at 18:13.

“It was really exciting. It was awesome to run against everybody,” Pietrzyk said. “I love running. Competitions are extremely fun. It was an amazing experience.”

“That was pretty awesome,” Malibu coach Shawn Waco said. “It wasn’t until the halfway point that Caroline pushed into another gear and pretty much blew away the field.”

For the next two months, Pietrzyk will more than likely rewrite the MHS record books with performances similar to that at Oak Park.

Pietrzyk, 17, is as talented as they come in long-distance running. Widely considered as one of the state’s best runners, Pietrzyk is the proud owner of three individual CIF titles. She is the defending CIF Southern Section Division IV cross country champion and the two-time defending CIF Division IV track and field champion in the 3,200 m.

Now in his second year as head coach at Malibu, Waco has the unique opportunity to witness her greatness.

“I am really fortunate to be the coach at Malibu and to be coaching Caroline her final two years,” he said. “It’s not too often a coach gets to be with someone like that at a high level.”

Pietrzyk finished second in the senior class at the season opening Seaside Invitational in Ventura two weeks ago with a time of 17:06. Despite the runner-up finish among more than 150 competitors, Pietrzyk believes she could have done better.

“I wasn’t really happy with my Seaside performance,” she said. “It’s always hard for me in the first race to get back into the racing mode. Seaside was a stepping stone for me to get back into racing shape.”

Pietrzyk’s ultimate goal is to reach the Foot Locker Nationals in San Diego at the conclusion of the season after missing by one spot a year ago.

“I always try and better my times at each course,” said Pietrzyk, who took second in the State in Division IV in 2013. “But I really want to get to Foot Locker Nationals this year. I really feel that will be a major part of my season. I really want to get there.”

Pietrzyk’s will to succeed has elevated the entire Malibu cross country team’s focus and attitude. Running alongside one of the elite runners in the entire State has motivated the Sharks to elevate their individual performances.

“We had a good group of seniors from last year leave. Now we have a group of sophomores and juniors who are stepping up,” Waco said. “The girls’ team has gotten stronger. The boys won’t be as strong but we are better at the top with two very good runners. But overall we have more runners than we did last year.”

Joining Pietrzyk on the girls team is sophomore Abby Blackwood, who placed ninth overall at Oak Park (19:24) and 13th in her division (18:36) at the Seaside Invitational.

Juniors Caitlin Myers, Emma Gallagher, Madeline Ward and Pietrzyk’s freshman sister, Kate, round out a much-improved Lady Sharks squad.

Seniors Alec Wilimovsky and Gianluca Purzer will lead a relatively young boy’s crew that includes sophomores Tommy Laubender, Nick Cupp, Jaime Lee and Micah Semler.

Purzer, a transfer student from Italy, finished 10th overall at Oak Park with a time of 17:03 while Wilimovsky was not too far behind in 16th at 17:37.

At Seaside, Wilimovsky ran a 16:03 with Purzer coming in at 16:30.

“My goal is to make CIF this year and definitely look to break the school record,” Wilimovsky said.

Wilimovsky and Purzer train together every day pushing each other to excel.

“It’s pretty nice having someone to train with. It makes everything a lot easier,” said Wilimovsky.

“It’s like having a brother,” Purzer added. “We are competing every day in everything.”

Next up for Malibu is the Woodbridge Invitational in Irvine on September 20.