Last weekend, Chicago saw the career end of one of its finest athletes.
Fourth-year Julia Sizek ran her last race on Saturday in the DIII NCAA Championships and finished as she has competed throughout her time here: running her heart out.
From her very first season as a Maroon, it was clear that Sizek was a competitor. In the 2009 cross country season, Sizek received her first of many accolades when she was named Rookie of the Year. Since then, Sizek has improved and added to her list of awards, crowning all of her achievements this year as she received All-American honors in cross country, indoor track and field, and outdoor track and field.
Sizek didn’t start out as the runner she is today. Over time, she learned what it took to become a better and more successful runner. Unlike many other athletes, Sizek didn’t have offseasons—she was competing all year long. With the amount that she ran, learning how to avoid injury was vital.
“She really learned how to best train and to stay healthy, which was a difficult thing for her early on,” head coach Chris Hall said. “She has learned from previous years and grown from those experiences.”
With the amount of training Sizek puts in, she has easily been one of the most dedicated athletes on campus. Not including meets, she averages 20 hours a week of practice, and she still never turns down an extra opportunity to train.
“I don’t skip out on Sunday long runs; if none of the girls are there at 10 a.m., I drop 6:30s with the guys,” Sizek said. “Running is a part of my life and is not just what I substitute for other time chunks in my schedule.”
It is this passion for running that makes Sizek not only a competitive threat but also a great team leader. This year, she was a team captain for both cross country and track.
“She has taken on much more responsibility as a leader, and her confidence has elevated a great deal over the course of her four years,” Hall said. “Her consistency and drive [make her the runner she is]. Julia uses running as a release, and has always been able to recognize that this is a process.”
Her hard work culminated in fourth and 16th place finishes in the 10,000m and 5,000m respectively this year at NCAAs, with personal bests in both events. However, Sizek could not enjoy her individual success without her team.
“The cross country and track teams are easily the best things that have happened to me at this institution,” Sizek said. “Through the team, I’ve met brilliant, motivated, and awesome people who have become my family. Running’s been good, but the team has been better.”
While the team will be upset to lose her, Hall believes Sizek has done everything she wanted to do in her time here.
“While Julia has been an exceptional runner at Chicago, she has gotten the full experience that this university offers,” Hall said. “I feel she will look back at her time here and feel she did everything she wanted as a Chicago student.”
Though Sizek will be moving on from Chicago and starting a new chapter of her life, one thing is certain—running will always be a part of it.