Cross Country star Pietrzyk wins CIF title

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Caroline Pietrzyk became Malibu High’s first section cross country champion.

As she sprinted down the backstretch of the California Interscholastic Federation Division IV girls cross country race at Mount San Antonio College last Saturday, little did Caroline Pietrzyk realize that she was running into the history books.

With a dominating effort from start to finish, Pietrzyk became Malibu High’s first female cross country section champion as she captured the CIF Division IV title in a personal-best time of 17:32.

“As I approached the finish line, I was really excited that I was going to be the CIF champion,” Pietrzyk said. “As you finish, there is a line of people cheering you on. I heard people I don’t even know yelling my name, and it was very exciting.”

It wasn’t until later the realization dawned that history had been made.

“I actually did not know until after my race that I was the school’s first female cross country CIF champion,” she said. “Once I found out though, I was amazed. It’s a great feeling to know that you will be in the record books forever.”

Pietrzyk has now won CIF championships in two sports; track and field being the other. Last spring, she became the third female athlete in Malibu track and field program history to win a CIF Southern Section title and the first since 2000 when she won the 3200.

Success has come quickly and often for Pietrzyk, who is still only a junior.

In October of 2011, Pietrzyk was recognized by The Malibu Times as an “Athlete of the Week.” Her cross country career began with four victories in four races as a freshman. Two years later, the junior cemented herself as one of the all-time great long distance runners in MHS history and one of California’s elite runners.

“Two years ago I would have never thought I could do something like this,” she said. “It is incredible to see the difference between now and then.”

For the second consecutive year, Pietrzyk was named the Most Valuable Runner in the Tri-Valley League. As a freshman, she was MVP of the Frontier League.

After a strong showing the week before at the CIF Prelims, Pietrzyk etched her name in the CIF record book with a scintillating performance.

“As I ran with her on the warm-up, I asked her that if she had a large gap on the second place runner, would she go for a PR (personal record) or just cruise to the finish?” Malibu coach Shawn Waco said. “Caroline’s response was, ‘I plan to get a PR today.’”

She did that and then some.

At the mile-and-a-half marker, Pietrzyk picked up the pace and never looked back. She defeated 111 other competitors in the process, with the runner-up a staggering 41 seconds behind.

“She was relaxed and confident before the race,” said Waco. “It was an amazing race. Caroline is extremely proud to have won the CIF Division IV Championship and to be recognized as a CIF Champion.”

A legion of loyal supporters, teammates and family members swarmed Pietrzyk after she crossed the finish line.

A year ago, she finished in third place in the Division IV title race. Now she can call herself a CIF champion forever.

“It is an amazing experience to be there in the first place, and as I was finishing was really when the whole atmosphere of the place sunk in,” said Pietrzyk, who finished with the 14th-fastest time of the day regardless of division. “I definitely will never forget it.”

Pietrzyk will next compete in the State Cross Country Championships this Saturday at Woodward Park in Fresno. She claimed sixth place at the 2012 State Cross Country Championships in Division IV.

“It is a great feeling to be able to represent your school while doing something you love to do,” Pietrzyk said. “It is great for me to see that my hard efforts have paid off and I can see my improvements. I am very proud to be representing Malibu as CIF Champion in this week’s State Finals.”