Making a name for himself and his school


Sophomore runner Christian Patzka raises his arms in celebration as he completes a race at the NCAA Division IIl Track & Field Indoor Championships in Birmingham, Alabama, March 10 and 11.

Parker Olsen, Men’s Sports Editor


Long distance running is not something that everyone loves. For Christian Patzka though, long distance running is his passion. 

“What motivates me the most is just to see how far I can get, see how fast I can get and push myself,” Patzka said.

The UW-Whitewater runner pushed himself further than ever before when he capped off the indoor track season by winning the 5,000 meter national title. Not only did he finish first, he also broke the record.

Clocking in at 13 minutes, 47.01 seconds, Patzka set a new Division III record by beating the previous record, which had stood tall for 29 years, by six seconds.

“I’m most proud of how I raced in the 5K,” Patzka said. “I raced in a way where, I’d say in the last kilometer or so, I put the hammer down and if anyone was going to come with me… feel free to do so. It was kind of a take no prisoners kind of move.”

Patzka said that he picked up the pace on every mile of the race and he was proud because, “I knew no one could stick with it.”

This national title is just one of many accolades that the sophomore runner has already earned over his first two years of college running. With multiple All-American performances in track and field, as well as in cross country, Patzka has plenty to be thankful for. Most importantly though, he is thankful for his coaches and them providing him the opportunity to compete at such a high level.

Patzka is one of a handful of distance runners that have emerged from Whitewater as national competitors. Their success has started to bring the Warhawk name to the national stage for distance events, which was not the case a short time ago.

The new abundance of national competitors in distance events has meant that distance and mid-distance coach Jeff Miller has had to tailor workouts that fit to having so many high quality long distance runners.

“He’s having us do these new workouts to push us,” Patzka said. “He’s never had three athletes on a team who consistently go to nationals and consistently place within the top nine or so. It’s just another way to push us further that way because, it’s a good problem to have, he’s never had to deal specifically with that.”

One of the secrets to their success is as simple as could be: A great team atmosphere that encourages everyone to push their limits and achieve their goals, all while being loose enough to still laugh at themselves. 

That environment has fostered more progress than most environments do. Patzka says that his 5K time has dropped by around a minute and a half in just the last two years. That progress is part of what motivates Patzka to keep getting better.

“It just really keeps me motivated to see how far I can continue to progress at Whitewater. It’s just a very cool feeling to have that sort of progression and see how far I can get in these four years and how fast I can get,” Patzka said.

As the track and field team now shifts from the indoor season to the outdoor season Patzka has his eyes set on another national championship, this time in an event he narrowly missed a title in last year.

“I definitely want that steeplechase national title because last year I got second and got outkicked in the end, I lost by point-three seconds. So I definitely want that title as well,” Patzka said. “Hopefully break the national steeplechase record, that’s a huge goal of mine.”

As for the rest of the team, Patzka hopes that more people will perform well at the WIAC meet and that more Warhawks earn the right to compete at the national outdoor meet in Rochester, New York.

“I know we have a very young group of runners on this team, there’s a lot of potential for all of them within the next outdoor season and moving forward. I’m very excited to see what we can do with the distance squad,” Patzka said.

Patzka has collected plenty of hardware so far in his career, but all those medals haven’t weighed down his desire for himself and his teammates to win at the national level.