Wolk wins USA junior 5k Championship


Freshman Nick Wolk won the junior 5000m championship at the United States Track and Field Outdoor Championships this weekend. (Photo by Anna Bongardino | Visual Editor)

Even though the Pitt track and field season ended two weeks ago, some of the team’s best runners continued to compete this past weekend at the United States Track and Field Outdoor Championships, including freshman Nick Wolk, who won the junior 5000m championship with a time of 14:26.54.

Recent graduate and All-American sprinter Desmond Palmer was also at the meet, finishing 14th in the semifinal round of the 400m hurdles with a time of 50.48.

The accomplishment is just the most recent in a long list for Wolk, who was named the ACC Men’s Cross Country Freshman of the Week in the fall, going on to place 50th in the ACC Championships. In the 2016-17 indoor season, he ran the team’s best time in the 3000m at the Penn State National Open, finishing at 8:15.69.

But to him, this weekend’s race ranks above most — if not all — of those achievements.

“This is probably one of my best races or biggest titles that I’ve ever had,” Wolk said. “It’s definitely given me a lot of confidence as we go towards the future.”

Wolk won the race by less than a second, beating out Oklahoma State’s Alec Haines and unattached runner Daniel Schaffer down the stretch.

“I knew everyone else in the race was hurting,” Wolk said. “With about a lap to go, I could hear them breathing heavy, so I figured I had a good shot. With one lap to go, I took the lead and trusted my kick to get me the win.”

Despite the championship, this wasn’t Wolk’s personal record in the event. In April, he ran a 14:16.12 in the Virginia Challenge, finishing 27th overall. He said this race was a bit of a slower one, with no one willing to surge and take a lead. As a result, the run wasn’t his fastest, but he’s still more than pleased with the result.

Plus, with the performance, Wolk qualified for the 2017 Pan American Junior Championships held in Lima, Peru from July 21-23. It will be Wolk’s first time traveling outside the country — let alone competing internationally.

He will represent the United States at the meet, a change from last week, when he wore the blue and gold of Pitt.

“[Representing the United States] is a dream come true, for sure,” Wolk said. “I’ve always wanted to represent the U.S.A. and try to compete against the best in the world for them and see what I can do out there.”

Looking to the fall, Wolk is trying to stay focused on the cross country season, where he’ll go up against older, more experienced runners. He has his goals outlined, saying he wants to be named to the first team All-ACC and qualify for the NCAA Championships.

“Honestly, cross country season will have a little better competition,” Wolk said. “The ACC is definitely extremely competitive and the NCAA is still a great challenge. Maybe it’s not as exciting — I don’t get to travel to Peru — but I’m still racing some of the best in the world at the collegiate level.”