Former MHS Cross Country Standout Excels in Collegiate Competition

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MHS graduate Caroline Pietrzyk runs in the 2015 Belmont Opener.

Former Malibu High School (MHS) cross country standout Caroline Pietrzyk is already making a name for herself as an NCAA Division I college runner.

The Vanderbilt University freshman was named the Southeastern Conference (SEC) Freshman Athlete of the Week following her record-breaking performance at Vanderbilt’s annual Commodore Classic on Sept. 19. Her time of 17:04.80 was the fastest five-kilometer time ever posted by a Vanderbilt runner at Vaughn’s Gap — the university’s home course for over 30 years. It was also the fifth-best performance of all time at the historic site.

Pietryzk has been the Vanderbilt Commodores’ top finisher at both of her first two collegiate races, also taking second place overall at the Belmont Opener on Sept. 5.

“It’s such an honor,” Pietrzyk said of her nomination. “It was really a big surprise to me. It’s an honor to represent [Vanderbilt] like that.” 

The Vanderbilt women’s team scored second overall at last weekend’s Commodore Classic based on the places of the team’s top five finishers. Pietrzyk’s record-breaking time placed third overall in the women’s 5K competition. 

Pietrzyk attributes much of her initial success to her team. “It helps to know that you’re doing it for [the team and coaches],” she said. “They’re so amazing and it makes me want to work hard for them.

“I’m running with someone else all the time,” she said regarding team camaraderie. “I haven’t done a workout by myself in a long time because everyone’s there for the same reason and they work together.”

Along with pushing her in practices and competitions, Pietrzyk claims that her teammates helped ease her transition into college life. “They help you adjust in every aspect of life — not only your training, which is different from high school, but also school and in general, and how to have a balance,” she said. “It’s great to have older girls who are helping you, and girls who are the same age and going through the same thing.”

Pietrzyk was a member of the MHS cross country team since her freshman year in 2011. At the end of her senior season, she led the Malibu squad with a first place performance in the girls’ 5K at 2014 Division IV CIF finals. She then went on to place second at the 2014 Foot Locker West Regional Championships.

“The MHS team showed me how important it is to support everybody and help everybody out,” she said of her former teammates.

Pietrzyk also swam for the MHS swim team and trained with Malibu Seawolves Swimming during her high school years.

With only two regular season meets remaining before SEC Championships and NCAA Regionals and Nationals, Pietrzyk has her sights set on more improvements. 

“I want to continue to improve and help my team get where they want to go,” she said. “That’s my biggest goal.”

For their next competition, Pietrzyk and the Commodore squad will travel to South Bend, Ind. for the Notre Dame Invitational on Oct 2.