Isaac Nowak Sets New Cross Country Record for NDA


Sienna Callaway, Staff Writer, Journalism I

“Every single runner counts and no matter how much work you put in, you can always do more,” said Isaac Nowak, who recently set a new record for cross country running at NDA.  

When the previous record setter, Dr. Joe Pierre, learned his record was shattered, he said, “Isaac is in a good position to be a very competitive collegiate distance runner.”

Pierre himself went on to run track at UW-Madison and now teaches there.

Ironically, when Nowak came to Notre Dame as a freshman, he was intending to play tackle football. 

“I knew I was not going to be good at tackle football because I was too skinny and didn’t hit the gym,” said Nowak. 

He did not run Cross Country until his freshman year in 2018 after  he talked to  senior(now alum) Howie Gerstner, and Gerstner told Nowak to go out for the cross country team. 

“So I tried going to all of the cross country practices after talking to Howie,” said  Nowak. He was 5’8, which was pretty tall for a freshman, but he was also skinny. Ultimately, he said, he knew that he had more of a running body than a tackle football body. 

Nowak loves the team atmosphere of cross country. “It is hard to not get along with anybody in cross country because we are all a team,” he said.

Looking back to his freshman year, he said, “I didn’t like cross country, but I didn’t hate it. It was just something that I was doing. As the seasons went on, I had more success and started liking running more and more.”

Fast forward to Nowak’s senior year: he had been setting goals. One of the goals was to beat the almost twenty-year-old record. 

“I told myself, I am going to beat the record. I don’t know when, but it will happen. I mean who knows, that record might go down again. We have another race Thursday,” said the senior. 

Nowak had not run for three day prior to the Shawano meet where the record was broken. He was injured and having issues with his hips and feet which made his form bad. 

“I woke up Saturday (the day of the race) and felt refreshed,” said Nowak. At this point, he knew that he was going to be racing. 

Before running the 5k which is 5,000 meters or a 3.1 mile race, at Shawano High School, Nowak was joking around that he was going to break the record of 16.06 from 2004. 

“The moment I knew I could do it was when there were two minutes left of the race, less than 400 meters. I could see the finish line and I heard Coach say that I was at 15 minutes. So I took off!” he explained.

Nowak had known the record he wanted to beat prior to the race. As he crossed the line, he knew that he’d done it. 

“I was over the moon, although I could not walk for five minutes after the race,” he said.  

At last, the record had been beaten. Nowak was “stoked” and was proud of all of the people that helped him get to where he was. 

“I would not say there is just one coach that helped me because all coaches help me in different ways,” said Nowak. “My parents work hard to support me. I know that is a common answer, but they do a lot for me.” 

Nowak’s favorite year of cross country would have to be this year because so far, there has been lots of success very early on in the season. The team is not only winning, but they are winning impressively. 

If Nowak were to give advice to any new runner, it would be “ Do not be afraid to push yourself. If you want to be good, put in all the work, even if it is 30 degrees.” 

Nowak plans to run cross country in college. He is not sure where he wants to go yet but is receiving calls from D1 schools like St. Thomas, which, he says, does not have what he wants academically. 

One of the colleges he is considering is UW-Eau Claire, a D3 college, which offers his study of interest–either Agriculture or Environmental Science.