Feature Friday: Emma Zawatski Poised For More XC Glory
Let's play a quick round of Guess Who!
Here are the clues:
Passionate. Driven. Tenacious competitor. Humble. Student of the sport. Team-first attitude. Model of consistency. Ultra-talented. Natural leader. Equally classy in victory or defeat.
Oh wait, did I mention 3-time Meet of Champions winner!!
I know the answer is obvious. I pretty much gave it away, right?
But in case you have been living under a shot put circle for the past couple years and somehow still don't know the answer, when you add all of those things together you get the one and only Emma Zawatski!!
Zawatski, who will be a senior at Freehold Township, really does check every box when it comes to everything you want in one of the state's biggest stars. And you really won't find anyone who is more liked among their fellow competitors and who shows greater sportsmanship than Zawatski.
She really is the total package!
Zawatski is coming off an remarkable junior year.
After shocking herself by winning the 1,600 as a sophomore at the 2022 outdoor Meet of Champions, Zawatski came into last XC season with huge expectations. She handled all that pressure and rose to the occasion by leading her team to its first State Group 4 title, winning the M of C title by running 18:38 at Holmdel Park, and qualifying for the Champs National Championships.
Last indoors, Zawatski ran the fastest mile ever by a junior indoors in NJ history by dropping a 4:48.71 in Boston, and she captured her third M of C title (one in each season) by winning the 1,600.
This past spring, she ran a PR of 2:11.13 in the 800, a PR of 10:38.18 for 3,200, and outdoor PR's of 4:49.56 for the mile and 4:48.13 for 1,600. She won her second straight State Group 4 title in the 1,600, and placed second in the 1,600 at the M of C.
I know you and your teammates have been putting in lots of mileage together. When did XC training begin for you and your teammates, and how much do you feel it helps for teammates to train together as often as possible throughout the summer?
My team takes about 2 weeks as a break after our spring track season before starting up XC training. After the break, we all jumped right into 7 a.m. practices every week Monday- Saturday. It is so special spending this time with my teammates because we all are working so hard to reach our individual and team goals. No teenager wants to wake up at 6:20 a.m. everyday in the summer to run at 7 a.m., but somehow we all show up every single day with a new funny story to tell. We might all be exhausted, but without fail, there are always a lot of laughs on those warmups.
Have you attended a Running Camp or are you planning to?
What does it mean to you to be a 3-time Meet of Champions winner (one in each season). Winning a M of C title is something every NJ high school T&F and XC athlete dreams about, and you have accomplished that feat 3 times!!!
Indoors in 2023), how has having that streak end by finishing second (behind Julia Scrudato of Montgomery) in the 1,600 at the M of C last spring fueled your competitive fire even more to repeat as M of C winner in XC this season?
Last year, you qualified for the Champs National Championships by placing 10th in the NE Regional and then placed 23rd at the Nationals Championships. What is your goal this season for those postseason races?
Let's get into your team, Emma. How is the Freehold crew looking? I know you have a lot of young talented runners behind you to form a strong pack. What are the big goals for your squad after producing the best season in school history last year? I imagine repeating as state Group 4 champs is a huge goal. Can this team be even better? How much potential do you see with this pack and how excited are you for this season?
What are the keys to making all those team goals a reality?
What is the story behind how you became a distance runner? When did you first start running, and how did it come about?
When was your big breakthrough moment when you began to realize that you could do big things in this sport?
I sort of have two that really stand out to me. The first one was in 5th grade. I went to USATF Junior Olympic XC Nationals in Alabama, mostly because my brother was racing so my parents figured I may as well race too since we'd be there anyway. There was no pressure and I didn't have any expectations. I finished 3rd in my race which I don't think any of us were expecting. It was my first national race so it gave me a taste of what my future could hold if I continued to improve. The whole trip was so fun and helped me realize I love running. The second was during indoor season of my sophomore year. It was the 1600m race at Groups. I don't think I had the maturity or confidence before then to realize I could compete with the top girls in the state who were older than me. I got out-leaned and placed second that day but mentally everything changed from that race forward. I knew I had the training and tools to accomplish big goals after that!
What do you love the most about being a runner?
What do you love the most about running in N.J.?
If you could for a long run with any 4 runners (dead or alive) who would it be and why? I can't wait to see what you write for this one.
How about the future, Emma? I am sure by now you've probably lined up some college visits for September. Which schools do you plan to visit, and what specifically are you looking for in a college?
Last year you opened your season at the Shore Coaches Invitational. When do you plan to open up this season? Same plan?
This season, I will likely open up a week earlier at the Thompson Fall Classic. For now, that's the plan unless I need to use that weekend for an official visit.