Tim Maciejewski knows he is near the finish line as a scholastic athlete. He also knows he is that much closer to starting a much more important endeavor.
The St. Francis distance runner is fine with wearing his school colors in competition for a final time. For Maciejewski, that could be during the All-Catholic Championship meet at his home track Saturday and Sunday.
“I think I’m just thankful for what cross-country and track have done for me,” Maciejewski said. “I came in as a guy who played baseball and thought that was my identity. Over the years I got more and more involved in the running sports. ... Sports have really helped me not only connect with myself better and get myself into better shape but connect with the guys around me.”
Sports also have helped Maciejewski develop the leadership characteristics that should serve him well at the U.S. Naval Academy. He reports for classes June 27 in Annapolis, Md.
While Maciejewski could be among the individual All-Catholic champions who qualify for states – thereby extending his career another week – it’s more likely he'll continue to embrace his unsung hero role with the team. It's a job he has thrived at in helping the Red Raiders become the hunted the past two seasons. St. Francis has won the overall All-Catholic team titles in cross-country (2017) and track (2018).
Most folks consider track mostly an individual sport and forget that team scores are kept in most meets. Second- and third-place points are key to a team’s success. While Maciejewski is a good athlete and logs a lot of miles during the week, he quickly discovered he wasn’t the fastest runner at St. Francis.
However, he’s fast enough and has a strong enough work ethic to be one of the bulldogs of the Red Raiders’ lineup. Maciejewski is willing to line up for a race in which his purpose is to pick up second- or third-place points. His role often is to give a teammate a breather in an event that strategically gives the team a better chance at winning.
“A lot of guys are if I’m not going to be first, I’m not even going to try (and run an extra race),” St. Francis coach Steve Otremba said. “He’s not one of those guys. He likes the challenge and is willing to put the team first. ... If we need Tim to do something, he does it. He doesn’t ask questions. He’s very respectful, and he’s been tremendous for us.
"I have a lot of those guys who have allowed us to be successful as a team."
“Running just pushes you and makes you work for your results,” Maciejewski said. “My role on the track team is I kind of embody what’s called serve and leadership. It’s not leading from the front of the pack, it’s pushing everyone else up in front of you and helping out the team as a result, not by getting those points as an individual but kind of helping out everyone around you with similar goals. I think that’s something the military really utilizes.”
Why a service academy for college?
That’s what Maciejewski felt he owed his parents for sending him to a high school as prestigious as St. Francis.
“If my parents were going to send me to a school like this, then it’s not the end game, it’s only the beginning,” he said. “I wanted to attend a really rigorous school, someplace that would really challenge me academically. I set myself up pretty well my first two years, so I thought I was in pretty good position to make a run at a service academy.”
Maciejewski had the grades, along with participation in numerous clubs and extracurricular activities. He passed the medical and physical exams required to apply. The final step was receiving a recommendation from a congressman, senator, secretary of the Navy or vice president. He received one from Rep. Chris Collins and learned of his acceptance in January.
“For four years, he’s put a body of work together to where he was accepted where there was no drama with that,” Otremba said.
“Being able to attend the Naval Academy is such an honor,” Maciejewski said. “The men and women who have walked through those halls have really distinguished themselves as great Americans and really trailblazed throughout their communities and society. It all goes back to challenging yourself and taking advantage of all the opportunities.”