Polish runner a new valuable asset for the track team

3/28/2007 7:00:00 AM

Natalia Jarawka woke up in her new home in Reno after a long move from Poland. She took out a bowl, and poured herself some cornflakes. She began heating up her milk, when her roommate came into the kitchen.

"What are you doing?" asked her roommate, Polly Smith. "You are supposed to eat cornflakes cold. Why do you have hot milk?"

Jarawka, a freshman on the University's track team, has not quite acclimated herself to Nevada, or collegiate track for that matter. Born and raised in Sosnowiec, Poland, Jarawka has been running track for eight years and is competing at the University level for the first time.

"In Poland, track was separate from school," Jarawka said. "We had clubs instead of university teams."

Kirk Elias, the distance coach for the track team, began recruiting Jarawka last Spring in an attempt to bring her to the University in August. Due to the extensive amount of paperwork required for international transfer students, Jarawka did not arrive in Nevada until Jan. 19.

"I wanted to try something new and change my environment," Jarawka said. Coach Elias seemed to be a very good coach. That made me very interested in his training program."

In Poland, Jarawka was a two-time junior national champion and placed sixth in the junior European championships. She was also ranked third nationally in cross-country and indoor track.

Since her arrival, she has continued to train for the longest distance events, in which she has also already won a silver medal for the University. At the WAC indoor tournament she placed second in the 5,000-meter and sixth in the 3,000-meter runs.

"She was done very well," Elias said. "She took second in the WAC only a couple weeks after she got here and she was running against some really great athletes. I think she is going to be really great for us."

Elias said he is impressed with Jarawka's ability to do so well even though she is still going through the acclimation process.

"She is still getting used to the training and the school," Elias said. "These transitions are very hard for international students. You have none of your friends and family around. The food is different.

"For her to come in and run as great as she did right away was really awesome."

Jarawka said that track is more of an individual sport in Poland.

"In Poland you run only for yourself, but here you run for the whole team," Jarawka said. "At the last race all of my teammates were cheering and screaming my name. It felt really good."

Jarawka said she greatly appreciates how kind and supportive her teammates and coach have been. She said that this has made the acclimation process much easier.

Jarawka has also noticed many cultural differences between Reno and Poland.

"It is more relaxed here," Jarawka said. "In Poland, people don't usually ask how I am. I was also surprised by how many international students attend the University."

While she is impressed with the friendly atmosphere at the University, Jarawka said she misses many things about Poland.

"I miss my family and friends," Jarawka said. "I also miss the food, of course. It's very different."

Jarawka looks forward to a successful future as a student athlete at the University. Her next competition will be Wednesday, March 28 and Thursday, March 29 at Cal Multis in Berkeley, Calif. This will be the third meet of women's track's outdoor season.


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