Imagine you’re a two-time state champion in the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs, a two-time state champion in cross country and a bronze medalist in the triathlon at the 2011 Junior Olympic in Beijing — and you still haven’t graduated high school.

Courtesy of Tony Smoragiewicz
Courtesy of Tony Smoragiewicz

Meet freshman Tony Smoragiewicz, the newest addition to the Michigan men’s cross country team.

Smoragiewicz was born in Toledo, Ohio but grew up in South Dakota. In high school, he became one of the fastest runners in the state and gained national recognition for his performance at big meets. It isn’t hard to believe that he quickly became one of the most recruited high-school runners in the nation, something that has its ups and downs.

“(Being recruited) was a cool experience, but it got tiring,” Smoragiewicz said. “During my junior year when I had cross country and recruiting it was hard to go back and forth — I was relieved to finally pick my school.”

His Midwestern roots showed through when he chose to attend Michigan over a long list of programs trying to secure Smoragiewicz. He said he wanted to stay in the Midwest, since that’s where he’s lived his whole life.

One thing very high on Smoragiewicz’s list when deciding on a college was the ability to continue competing in triathlons, a sport not recognized by the NCAA.

“I talked to (men’s cross country head coach) Alex Gibby and they were going to let me keep training for triathlons,” Smoragiewicz said. “I am getting workouts from the swim coaches and getting in the pool a few times. I have also been riding my bike and I hope to do some training with the Triathlon Club and the Cycling Club on campus.”

Smoragiewicz said he plans to compete in the 2012 Triathlon World Championships in Auckland, New Zealand on Oct. 22.

And besides his busy practice schedule, Smoragiewicz’s transition to college has been a smooth one so far, he said.

“I love it,” Smoragiewicz said. “(It’s) a lot more relaxed and (I have) a lot more free time that I can use for studying.”

But for running, things are a little different. Smoragiewicz is adjusting from his role as a top-tier high school runner to a freshman in college working to move up on the team. He has embraced the change, saying he likes having teammates push him in practices.

Smoragiewicz competed in his first collegiate cross-country race at the Panorama Farms Invitational in Earlysville, Va. on Saturday. He finished 33rd overall and sixth on the team with a time of 25:24.4 for the eight-kilometer race.

“It was awesome,” Smoragiewicz said. “The flight down there was nice and it was cool to have Michigan handle everything. I spent the weekend with a great group of guys.”

But when he stepped to the starting line on Sept. 22, Smoragiewicz experienced something that he hadn’t in a long time — nerves.

“I hadn’t been nervous for a race in a while, but I felt the nerves coming back to me. For once, though, I didn’t feel much pressure,” Smoragiewicz said. “I knew there weren’t very high expectations so I could just go out and run my race.

“(And it) felt good. From my experiences in practice I was hoping to finish a little higher up on the team, but overall I felt good about my race. It was a little weird not to be up in the lead group but it was a good experience.”

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