End of run great for Zawislak

Spring-Ford sophomore left baseball and lacrosse to star as a runner for the track team.


Submitted photo

Spring-Ford sophomore John Zawislak is a two-time state qualifier for the boys cross country team and runs the 1,600 and 3,200-mile races for the track team.

By Matt Dunne, Staff Writer

John Zawislak is one of the best sophomore runners in the state of Pennsylvania.

Many of the other top runners have been training for years to achieve the positions they are in. `Zawislak took an unorthodox journey to get to where he is now.

On a late Spring day in 2016, John Zawislak was called over to talk by his baseball coach.

He was informed he would not be continuing into the summer, meaning his season was over, and unbeknownst to him at the time, his baseball career.

Zawislak turned his attention to lacrosse, and he was very intent in carving out minutes for himself on that year’s school seventh-grade team. He searched for ways to get into great shape, finding about cross country from a neighbor. He figured he could attempt to run because it would give him something to do and would get him in better shape for the lacrosse season.

Little did he know, running that season would change his entire life.

“Getting cut from baseball was tough, I had played baseball for six years, and I loved playing the sport and playing along side of my friends,” Zawislak said. “I participated in cross country because my mom and neighbor had told me that it would be a good way to get in shape for that year’s lacrosse season.”

Even after his rapid success in cross country, transitioning to solely running was going to be a difficult decision for Zawislak. He did not even partake in track in the seventh grade, as he successfully made the lacrosse team. After his eighth-grade cross country season, though, Zawislak finally realized running was going to need to be the focus of attention.

“I came back for cross country and came in first in the Pioneer Athletic Conference,” he said with a laugh. “Yeah, that made me realize I should probably shift my attention to running instead of lacrosse.”

Beginning with his freshman season, Zawislak was being thrown directly into a race for the PAC title. He anticipated impacting the team more in the future, but in the team’s summer workouts it became quite clear that he was going to play an integral part in the team’s success.

“Since I was a freshman and very new to the sport, I wasn’t really sure how to run the workouts,” Zawislak said. “Luckily for me, I had a great group of seniors that guided me and showed me how to run the workouts.”

Zawislak mentioned Ray Dunne, Zach Smith, Jake McKenna, and Shane Ainscoe as the four guys who were important in making his freshman campaign a seamless transition, so much so that he helped get them a Pioneer Athletic Championship for Spring-Ford.

“It was awesome because we won by only two points,” Zawislak said. “It really came down to the wire and each runner mattered.”

Zawislak’s season was capped off by finishing 50th in the state individually, as well as a fourth place finish for the team.

Even though he did not start running until seventh grade, at the end of that season Zawislak was the fastest freshman runner in Pennsylvania. In the winter season, he qualified for freshman nationals and finished 15th. Zawislak and the same runners from cross country were set up for a strong track campaign.

In the mile, Zawislak finished ninth overall in the PAC. His 4:32 mile was incredibly impressive for someone who was only a freshman, yet the season definitely did not go as planned. The team was looking to achieve their eighth straight PAC title and that did not happen.

“To lose the seven-peat, it really hurt because it was a streak that everyone in the program was very proud of,” Zawislak said. “I felt like I let the team down. It really motivated me to work and get ready for this year.”

That is Zawislak’s mindset going into this season, and he will look to start his own new win streak. Although he qualified for states, the Rams did not win a cross country title this year in the PAC, and that just adds more fuel to the fire going into this season.

With hopes to qualify for states in both the mile- and two-mile, Zawislak goes into the track season with high hopes: including being a Division 1 runner, which would have been a non-thought, five years ago. He will be a big part of any success the team has this season and any season going forward.

“I guess it is a good thing I got cut from my baseball team,” he said with a laugh.
It sure was.