Record-setting Olivia Borowiak has Blue Demons running in the right direction


Kiersten Riedford

Olivia Borowiak racing in the Big East Cross Country Championship on Oct. 29, 2022.

All an athlete can do to maximize their potential is prepare. On Jan. 22, DePaul junior distance runner Olivia Borowiak made clear how prepared she was, winning the 3000-meter race and breaking former DePaul runner Erin Moffett’s 18-year-old record in the process.

“I honestly wasn’t really setting out to break the record in the first meet that I raced for indoor this year,” Borowiak said. “But, I was just feeling comfortable in the race and was like, welp, I’m already here, might as well just go for it.”

Breaking records  is built on the foundation of an athlete’s past successes – something Borowiak is familiar with. She won the 5k at the Eastern Illinois Spring Open last February, leading the team by finishing 20th in the 6k at the Big East Cross-Country championships, and consistently serving as the flagbearer for DePaul distance-running.

“It’s been interesting watching Olivia and getting to know her,” associate head cross country and track and field coach Geoff Wayton said. “She’s just your classic hard worker, detailed, hard-nosed and stubborn, and those characteristics translate very well into being a distance runner.”

As praise and accolades continue to pile up, it’s even more ironic that Borowiak’s introduction into running was about as innocuous as it gets.

“I started cross country in middle school – track too,” Borowiak said. “I did gymnastics for eight years, and we used to always have to run the mile in summertime practice at a track outside the YMCA. I realized I was pretty good at running so I joined cross country, and I’ve been doing it since.”

Hailing from Yorkville, Illinois, Borowiak ultimately opted to stay in-state after a high school career that included six All-Conference honors in cross country and track, coming to DePaul to study writing and rhetoric, with hopes of becoming an author one day.

Once on campus, Borowiak began – and continues to – demonstrate the qualities that have made her into a record-breaker and a leader of her teams.

“I know that DePaul track and field has a tradition of attracting good people,” Wayton said. “With Olivia in particular, early on I pulled her aside after practice and said, ‘You know, you’re the one that’s going to have to do the work here, you’re the one that’s going to have to toe the line.’”

While Wayton has only been with the team since being hired in December 2021, Borowiak’s talent stood out to him from the beginning . “I said, ‘I’m rarely wrong – you’re pretty darn good,’” Wayton said.

While ‘toeing the line’ and serving as the masthead for women’s running at DePaul, it’s clear that Borowiak’s leadership and talent has stood out to more than the coaching staff.

“I think she definitely leads by example,” freshman runner Meaghan Andrews said. “Every day she’s out there giving over 100 percent effort, and she’s pushing our teammates to be better. You can definitely see how passionate she is about the sport.”

It’s one thing to encourage your teammates to set a high standard, it’s another to set that standard for yourself.

“I’m definitely better at leading by example,” Borowiak said. “And making sure that what I’m doing, that everyone sees it.”

In a season that comes off the heels of one that was truncated, leadership such as Borowiak’s – alongside the strong foundation and consistency of the cross country and track and field programs – becomes indispensable.

“Just getting back here and being consistent every week – it’s the same pattern,” Borowiak said. “You’re just doing hard workouts the same days, that pattern and consistency is what helps me to be the best and be prepared.”

Consistency, training, and leadership will be all the more valuable as the track and field season presses on, with Meyo Invitational taking place this past weekend at Notre Dame and more in the coming weeks, with the Big East Indoor Championships looming large at the end of February.

“The Big East is a tough conference for distance,” Wayton said. “Obviously schools are selected because of the common background for this conference, and it just happens that a lot of these have great traditions of distance running. But I’d really like to transition and get into the mindset that we’re contributing more on the track in the distance events going forward.”

All the while, Borowiak will do everything she can for her and her teammates to succeed – and maybe cross off a few more names in the record books.

“I’m hoping to break a few more records here, either indoor or outdoor,” Borowiak said. “I’d love to score points in a distance event at conference. Outdoor conference I was close, but not quite, so it’d make me happy if I could actually do it this year.”