Alpena alum Stepanski qualifies for D2 track finals

As a track star for the Saginaw Valley State University Cardinals, Taylor Stepanski continues to soar.

Over the weekend, Stepanski, an Alpena High alum, participated in the Jet’s Pizza Invitational at SVSU. Stepanski’s first-place performance in the 800 meter run (2:09.62) was not only good enough to automatically qualify for the NCAA Division II Championships, it was also a new fieldhouse record.

“The weekend started off with watching the multis compete on Friday and just being around all of the energy from the athletes made me a bit nervous, but I was also very excited for my race on Saturday,” Stepanski said.

It was the first indoor race of the season for Stepanski and going in she wasn’t exactly sure what kind of shape she was in, along with never running an automatic qualifying time in college, but that changed in a huge way.

“I was quite confident in myself and it was extremely exciting to qualify. At first, I was in pain. I honestly didn’t think about my time after the race, all I knew was that I put it all out there on the track. It wasn’t until it was announced that I found out I broke the Invitational record,” Stepanski said.

Breaking records is nothing new to Stepanski: she also holds the indoor and outdoor 800 meter records for the SVSU women’s team, the Distance Medley Relay record and the outdoor 1,600 relay record.

This will not be the first time Stepanski has qualified to run at the national level, having previously qualified during her freshman and junior years.

“To be able to have another opportunity to run at a national level is something that I am extremely grateful for. I’ve met and raced against so many inspiring people at that level and I can’t wait to go back. I feel as if I have more experience coming into it this year and I can’t wait to have the chance to support my school,” Stepanski said.

With still one year of eligibility left, Stepanski has already achieved so much during her time as a Cardinal. As a freshman she received All American honors in the Distance Medley Relay indoors. Stepanski was named the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Freshman Runner of the Year for the outdoor track season and qualified for outdoor junior nationals during her freshman year. As a sophomore, Stepanski was runner up in the 800 meter indoors and helped the teams Distance Medley Relay place third at nationals. Stepanski kicked off 2015 by being nominated for the SVSU Female Ryder Athlete of the Year award.

After taking second place in nationals last year, the expectations are high for Stepanski this season.

“I am so grateful for everything that I have achieved and to be able to start the indoor season off on a high note leaves me confident in what the rest of 2016 will bring. I would definitely like to be on top,” Stepanski said.

Stepanski would like to attempt to run the mile and 1,500 at the national level, but her main event is the 800 meter. She also runs the 1,500/mile, the Distance Medley Relay and 1,600 relay.

Despite all of her success on the collegiate stage at SVSU, Stepanski still believes the Alpena track team was on of the best teams she has ever been apart of.

During her four years at Alpena, Stepanski qualified for the state finals in at least one event for four straight years and earned all-state honors in three events. At the time of her graduation, she held records in the 800 and 1,600 runs as well as records in the 1,600 and 3,200 relays.

“To be able to build lifelong relationships with some of the girls from that team was so incredible. It’s always exciting to see Alpena alumni at other collegiate meets. College running is definitely something that takes some getting used to and it is something you really have to commit to, but I wouldn’t change it for anything. The people I’ve met and the memories I have made will stay with me forever. I credit my success to my family, friends and coaches. Without them and their support I would not be where I am today,” Stepanski said.

When she is not tearing up the track and rewriting the record book, Stepanski is just as focused in the classroom and is studying Business and Management.

“After graduation, I definitely want to move somewhere far away from the Michigan snow and cold, but I know I could do whatever I wanted. I would really like to continue to work with athletes or even continue to be an athlete. The possibilities are endless,” Stepanski said.

Jonny Zawacki can be reached via email at jzawacki@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5690.