Even though senior Melanie Vlasic is finishing up her final seasons with the women’s cross country and track and field teams, she has one particular teammate to look out for — her younger sister, Mikaela Vlasic.
The Vlasic sisters hail from Hatfield, where they attended North Penn High School. Both women competed on their high school’s cross country and track teams as well.
Melanie tends to focus on long-distance running, while first-year student Mikaela is more drawn to mid-distance events. Melanie recently won the Carnegie Mellon University Invitational in the 5k with a time of 18:26.2. Mikaela also ran well that day, finishing 17th with a time of 19:34.2.
The Pitt News talked with the Vlasic sisters about how they got into running and what it’s like to compete together at Pitt.
The Pitt News: How did you guys start to get into running?
Melanie Vlasic: We both kind of grew up with different sports. Mikaela was really into soccer, and I was into a bunch of different sports. Then I was like, “Well, I want to get into shape.” So in ninth grade I did track but didn’t take it super seriously. But then I started to really enjoy the sport throughout the years, and I think Mikaela saw that and took a chance on the sport, and I think fell in love with it as well.
Mikaela Vlasic: Yeah, I didn’t even know cross country existed until she signed up for it, so that was definitely her influence. Track is just one of those things where you don’t need any skills to do it, you just have to know how to run. So, I was like, “Might as well give it a shot.”
Melanie: But we never knew much about it growing up. I came back from my first cross country meet when I was a sophomore in high school and my mom said, “Why are you muddy? Weren’t you on the track?” and I was like, “No that’s not it!”
TPN: How did you guys know you wanted to go to Pitt?
Melanie: It was kind of a shot in the dark. I had viewed a lot of schools, and I felt like I really liked the team and the environment here. When Mikaela was making her decision, it was definitely really tough not to be biased. I knew she would really like it here because there’s so many great people that I’ve met and gotten to work with throughout the years. I knew she would really like it. But it was hard to not put that on her and let her make her decision for herself.
Mikaela: Through her, I knew what to expect. It made the decision easier because I basically knew exactly what I was getting when I came here. There was no surprises, which was nice.
TPN: What’s it like running in college together?
Mikaela: We used to run with each other in high school for a year. I feels like it’s kind of the same thing. It’s nice because I kind of knew what to expect. It wasn’t a surprise so it was really nice.
Melanie: It’s really fun. I enjoy it a lot. You see what each other goes through each day, and you know each other so well. You know you’re going to be there for each other, so it’s cool being on the same team again.
TPN: Is it any different than high school, or is it about the same?
Mikaela: I feel like, just in general, in high school that first-year students and seniors were far apart, but in college everyone is the same age. You’re all doing the same thing, and it makes things easier.
Melanie: Definitely agree with that.
TPN: What do your parents think about you guys being on the same team?
Melanie: They’ve been super supportive, very happy with how things played out because, again, it’s very easy for them to come see both of us at the same time. Also I think they’ve seen how much of a second home Pitt has become for me, and I think there’s a lot of comfort in knowing that Mikaela is here because so far we’ve had really good experiences.
Mikaela: I feel like since there’s nobody left in our house, they have a hard time because they’re all alone. They definitely like to come to the meets, and we’re both there so it’s just killing two birds with one stone.
TPN: Would you guys describe your relationship as a sibling rivalry or one where you try to bring each other up?
Melanie: I think the thing with Mikaela and I is that we have really different strengths. I’m more of a long distance runner, and she’s a lot better at the fast stuff, so it’s easy to support each other in that and also pick each other up. When I feel like I want to run really hard on a fast part of a workout, I have a hard time with that, but I’ll go to Mikaela for that. I think one of her strongest suits is that she is a very confident person and a very confident runner. Sometimes when I’m not so confident and am overthinking something, she’s a very easy person to go to and kind of lift me up.
Mikaela: Definitely. I have a hard time with long distance stuff. I get really impatient on runs because we’re just running for a really long time. So it’s nice to be able to run with her because she knows what she’s doing, and I can trust the process a little bit.
TPN: What are you guys looking to accomplish the rest of the year with track and cross country?
Melanie: I think we are trying to be as true to ourselves as we can and go out there and just give it our best all the time. Again, like playing off each other’s strengths, I think we complement each other really nicely.
Mikaela: I think we’ll help each other meet in the middle. Again, playing off each other’s strengths, she’s gonna help me with distance, and I’ll help her with sprint, and we can find a good balance in the middle.