Polish hurdler to return from recurring injuries
More than 4,300 miles away from his hometown of Czempin, Poland, senior hurdler Ziemowit Dutkiewicz has been one of Central Michigan’s record-setting athletes.
At last year’s mens Mid-American Conference Outdoor Championships, Dutkiewicz, or “Z” as his teammates and friends call him, was the only CMU runner to place first in any event.
Unfortunately for Dutkiewicz, injuries have hampered his career. He missed the entire 2017 indoor season with an inflamed Achilles, which has been an “on-and-off” injury for a few years, Dutkiewicz said.
While his main event is the 400-meter hurdles, he’s shown skill in a variety of areas, including the 200, 400, 500 and 600. He has also been part of the 4x400-meter relay team that holds the school record of 3:07.03.
Despite the recurring injuries, head coach Mark Guthrie said he's grateful for Dutkiewicz. He said he is glad he recruited him five years ago, despite hesitation to recruit outside the United States.
“A lot of teams do a lot of recruiting outside the country because their athletes are often better," Guthrie said. "That’s not ethical in my eyes. That’s why Z is our only foreign recruit.”
During his time in America, Dutkiewicz has made memories to be proud of.
He placed first at the 2016 MAC Outdoor Championships, finishing the 400 hurdles in 51.34 seconds as the third seed.
However, Dutkiewicz said his favorite memory in the U.S. was two years ago on his birthday. It was his first appearance in regionals.
Despite having to run without spikes — as the ones he brought were illegal — his 4x400 relay team set an all-time CMU record and he set a personal record in the 400 hurdles. He has since broken that personal best.
“Competing in America has been a terrific experience,” he said. “It’s been a main goal to travel, and to do that while also (doing) a sport is a dream come true.”
Athletes coming from outside the U.S. are generally among college teams’ top performers, Guthrie said. He added other countries don’t inherently produce better athletes, but countries’ best athletes are looking for a chance to compete in the U.S. and colleges are eager to recruit them.
“I was looking for a school in the U.S.,” Dutkiewicz said. “Michigan has weather a lot like Poland’s. That was a big thing for me. Going (to a Division I school) was also very important, and at the time, (Central Michigan) had the best offer.”
Outside of the weather, life in America has few similarities to Dutkiewicz's hometown. The movies, television and the culture are generally different. Moreover, the food is too.
“I gained a lot of weight my first month in America,” Dutkiewicz said. “The food is so fatty, but so good. That may have affected my first few runs.”
Despite a great career and a journey, Dutkiewicz said his career has also been riddled with disappointment.
His most frustrating issue has been his nagging injuries, having to take semesters off to redshirt. For as long as he can remember, Dutkiewicz's had some sort of injury. He’s also admitted to having expectations that may have been too high.
“After running well at the World Championships when I was a teenager in 2009, my expectations went too high," he said. "I started expecting too much of myself. That hurt me in the long run.”
Despite the admission that high expectations have led to disappointment, he remains hopeful for the remainder of the season.
He expects to defend his MAC title in the 400 hurdles and hopes that can push him to the NCAA Division I Track & Field Championships.
Dutkiewicz said he hopes to return from injury on Friday, April 15 during the Oakland meet.