Nowak Focuses on Breaking More NDA Records


Emma Zankoul, Staff Writer, Journalism I

“I’m really close to all the records. I think I might get all of them,” said senior Isaac Nowak, who recently broke the 20-year-old school cross country record held by Joe Pierre.

When the former record holder learned that Nowak had broken his record, he said, “Isaac is in a good position to be a very competitive collegiate distance runner.”

Pierre himself ran track at UW-Madison after high school and is now a professor there.

Nowak was not always a good runner. In fact, many people lapped him in middle school during the mile race.

“I’ve always wanted to play football, but I was too skinny,” he said, and he did not start his cross country career until his freshman year of high school. 

“I was told it was fun because my friend who was a senior at the time did it, so the coaches told me to join the practices and I did,” he said. He later realized he “was not too bad,” even though he did not like it much at the start.

Nowak made the varsity team after his first race in freshman year.

He got to know many new people through it because of all the practices. “It’s hard not to get along with anyone in cross country,” Nowak said. “You’re kind of forced to be part of the whole team.”

Before Nowak’s race on Saturday, he told his teammates he was going to “break the record” as a joke, since he had not gone to the last few practices. “My form was bad, and my hip hurt a lot,” he said.

But Nowak had been thinking about breaking the record earlier this year; it was his goal for the season.

During the race, Nowak realized that other runners were getting further behind him. “The moment I knew I could break it was when the coach told me my time, and I could see the finish line, so I just took off,” he said.

Nowak thinks that the lack of practices before the race helped him; he was “mentally refreshed.”

Now, he owns the school record for the 5000m race, which he accomplished at Shawano Invitational on Saturday, Sept. 10,, 2022.  He had a time of 15:55 minutes beating the last school record of 16:06, which was set in 2004.

Nowak has run almost 30 races during high school and has a few more to go. The races range anywhere from the 200m to the 5000m race.

But cross country is not his only sport. Nowak also does track and cross country skiing, even though he is stopping skiing competition this year because of indoor track. 

Nowak thinks that many new underclassmen who are joining the team are really talented, even though the number of people who are doing cross country is decreasing. The team  used to be 160 people, and now it is around 85. 

Although numbers are down, Nowak said,  “This is the best team we’ve ever had in the history of Notre Dame, and we could definitely win the state championship.” 

According to him, “Most schools would dream to have the NDA #7 runners.” 

His biggest inspiration has been “all my coaches and my parents, along with the inspiring example of Navy Seal David Goggins.

“If you wanna be good, just put in all the work and don’t be afraid” is Nowak’s advice for new athletes.

Nowak has college in his mind now. He does not really know where he wants to go, but he knows he wants to do something in agriculture/environmental science, and he for sure wants to run.

The University of St. Thomas has called him, but they do not have his academic wants. He is also interested in the University of Eau-Claire Wisconsin, but their program is Division 3, which does not offer athletic scholarships. 

But now he is still focusing on cross country. “We have another meet on Thursday,” he said, “and who knows? I might be able to break a record again.”