When Eli Kaczinski crossed the finish line at this year’s cross country national competition, he did so with tears of joy after accomplishing something no one had done in the program in nearly a decade.
Kaczinski is the first men’s cross country runner to earn All-American status since 2008.
He said his emotions were high as soon as he finished the race.
“It was a special moment,” Kaczinski said. “It was something I had been dreaming about for four years and to have it come true, it was something really cool and exciting.”
As a member of the cross country and track teams, Kaczinski’s impact goes beyond just his abilities as a runner.
“Eli’s been the most consistent guy we’ve had, really the heart and soul,” head cross country coach Ryan Chapman said. “More than that, he’s just a constant beacon. He doesn’t falter, he doesn’t waver, he can be relied on. He’s a great leader, he’s a vocal leader, he’s just a guy you love having around that you can count on.”
Although his last year of cross country is over, Kaczinski said he is very excited to see what the indoor and outdoor track seasons have in store for him in his last go around with the Knights.
As a national qualifier during last year’s outdoor season in the 10,000 meter run, Kaczinski is hoping to use his experience to help better the track team this year.
One of the biggest ways he said he can help is by staying positive even during tough times.
“In order for me to be performing at my best, I need to realize that every race is different and really keep my head on straight,” Kaczinski said.
Chapman said Kaczinski is a tireless worker and he is very excited to see what he can do during track season.
In addition, Chapman said that Kaczinski is a great representative of the men’s cross country program.
“This is three years in a row we have been to the national meet and we can’t do it without guys like Eli Kaczinski who come in here and and say ‘I want to change the culture. I want to do something great,'” Chapman said.
Kaczinski said he has loved Wartburg since his senior year of high school and loves the town of Waverly and its people as well.
“I knew from the very beginning dating back to high school when I came here for a camp that this was the right place for me,” Kaczinski said. “It just felt like a family atmosphere and its treated me that way for four years now.
As a senior, Kaczinski knows his days as a Knight are numbered. Even so, he plans to continue to be around the sports he loves even after his days as an athlete are over.
“I never want to be away from this sport, so I want to become a cross country and track coach eventually, maybe come back to Wartburg some day after Coach Chapman is done,” Kaczinski said