Baldwin Wallace University Junior Mary Griglak is Faster Than a Speeding Bullet
Both on the Track and at the Rink
Griglakís continued commitment to excellence pays dividends
By Dave Kich Ď05, Student Assistant
BEREA, OHIO Ė To become an elite athlete, two key attributes are necessary: an intense desire to succeed and a commitment to excellence. Baldwin Wallace University junior Mary Griglak is the epitome of both of these attributes.
Individually, Griglak, who is competing in her third season of track and field, is an All-Ohio Athletic Conference sprinter and was the 200-meter OAC champion outdoors in 2004 and the indoor champ in the 300 and 400 meters. She also was a member of the OAC record-setting 4 x 200 meter relay team that won a title. Her efforts helped the Yellow Jackets regain the OAC indoor title after a two-year absence and restablish BW as the premiere womenís track program in the OAC.
"Mary played a big role in our winning the OAC indoor title," said veteran Yellow Jacket Head Coach Dr. Bill Taraschke, who was selected as the OAC Womenís Indoor Track Coach of the Year -- the 21st time in his career that he has been named as a OAC coach-of-the-year.
"Mary definitely is a competitor with a strong will and desire to succeed at everything she does," said Taraschke. "Her dedication and commitment has rubbed off on her teammates and it has made our entire program better in the long-run."
In addition to her accomplishments in track at BW, Griglakís accomplishments as a world-class speedskater are even more remarkable. In 2002, she reached the pinnacle of athletic competition as a member of the United State Olympic speedskating team that competed in Salt Lake City, Utah in the Olympic Games.
Griglak, who finished sixth overall at the 2002 Olympic Trials and was an alternate to the team, recognizes what an honor it was to compete in the Olympic Games.
"Being part of the 2002 Olympic Team was absolutely incredible. It was especially important because it was right after the tragedy of September 11. To see the country come together and the strength of the country at that time was really special," said Griglak.
As a short track speedskater, where competitions take place on a hockey rink with a 111-meter oval, Griglak enjoys the races that are pure sprints. However, in short track competition, a skater must compete in all events to determine an overall champion. This is in contrast to long track speedskating where the athlete can specialize in certain events.
"Since Iím a sprinter, I like the 500 meters and Iím pretty good at the 1000. Once I get to 1500 meters, I can have one race that goes well and one that goes poorly. The 3000 meters is defitely my least favorite race," said Griglak with a smile.
Although Griglak has been on skates since the age of three, she didnít begin her speedskating career until she turned 13. However, even with such a "late start" in the sport, Griglak proved to be a quick learner. At 15 she moved away from home to train at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Marquette, Michigan, and later trained at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Griglak soon realized that there is a price to pay for being the best.
"Training for the Olympics is a 24/7 job. Everything you do goes into being a good speedskater and that is your sole focus," said Griglak.
Focus certainly is not a problem for Griglak. She brings a desire to be the best to the BW track and field team which rubs off on everyone around her. That is something that Head Coach Dr. Bill Taraschke greatly admires.
"She brings that elite athlete dedication to the program that serves as a role model for others. Her hard work and dedication makes others want to work harder," said Taraschke.
Whether it is indoor or outdoor competition, Griglak has recorded some blazing times for the Yellow Jackets.
During the 2004 track season, Griglak improved all of her personal best times in both indoor and outdoor meets. In the 55 meter dash indoors, she scorched the track with a time of 7.39 seconds. She also lowered her 300 meter dash indoor time by nearly two seconds to 42.92. In the outdoor meets, Griglak was absolutely brilliant in dropping three seconds off her 400 meter dash time to 59.51. In addition, she ran a 12.75 in the 100 meter dash and a 25.94 in the 200 meter dash.
Assistant Coach Craig Braithwaite is Griglakís sprinting coach. Better than anyone, he knows why Griglak has been leaving the competition in the dust.
"Mary has mastered the hardest skill a coach has to teach," said Braithwaite, a BW graduate and former All-American sprinter. "She knows how to compete. Getting in shape is not hard if youíre able to find the time. Learning how to compete is not so easy.
"Mary has the ability to use all of her preparation in a competition," continued Braithwaite. "She simply has to be first. Not all athletes have that mindset. When you watch her compete, you know there is something special going on."
While Griglak continues to excel on the athletic stage, she also has an eye on her future. As a business administration major who carries a 3.5 grade point average, Griglak has been working in the BW Business Plan Clinic for the past year as a student consultant.
"[At the BPC] We work with entrepreneurs and small business owners," said Griglak. "The students team up with an experienced entrepreneur, and as a team, coach other entrepreneurs through the creation of their business plan."
Herzog Chair in Free Enterprise and Associate Professor of Business Administration Phil Bessler has seen firsthand the work ethic that has made Griglak a world class athlete.
"Maryís work ethic is phenomenal," said Bessler. "She brings with her a dedication and commitment to excellence that shows up in everything she does. I suspect that is consistent with her athletic commitment as well."
After working with Griglak for the past year, Bessler goes on to say, "Mary is a professional. She has a disciplined approach and is an absolute pleasure to work with. There are no limits to what Mary can accomplish when she puts her mind to it."
While Griglak excels as an athlete, she has put her mind to graduating from BW. For this reason, Griglak has decided against pursuing a spot on the 2006 U.S. Olympic speedskating team. She realizes that the intense time demands of speedskating would make graduating in four years from college an impossibility.
"While you can go to high school and skate successfully, you canít go to college and skate successfully at the same time," said Griglak. "When I went to the Olympics, I was 18 and had just graduated from Lutheran West High School the year before. Getting my college degree in four years is something that I really want to pursue."
A good education and good grades are something that Griglakís biggest supporters, her parents, have instilled in her.
"My parents are absolutely unbelievable," said Griglak. " I didínt come from a typical sports family. However, they support me no matter what I try to accomplish and that is a great feeling. The only condition is that I keep up my grades."
Without question, Griglak appreciates family values and the concept of teamwork. These are two of the things about the BW track team that Griglak enjoys the most.
"Thereís an aspect of team here that was not involved with speedskating," said Griglak. "I really enjoy that element. In fact, this past September, a group of us organized ourselves and started training for the upcoming season. Weíve really found a lot of dedicated athletes."
Of course, with Griglak leading the way, dedication and hard work are sure to follow. As the BW track teamís Most Valuable Sprinter in 2004, Griglak would love to achieve All-American status.
"There are a few Olympians who have been collegiate All-Americans as well," said Griglak. "Iíd really like to accomplish that feat before my career is over. In addition, I want to help lead our team to the double (an OAC outdoor title).
When her time at BW is finished, Griglak wants to be remembered for more than her athletic accomplishments. For her, upholding the strong values of the BW track team are what will count most in the end.
"Thereís such a team aspect and sense of family on the BW track team. I would like to be remembered as someone who shared those values. When people remember me, I want them to remember someone who worked hard and worked hard to be part of the team," said Griglak.
She is already well on her way to adding that description to her long list of athletic and academic accomplishments.