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After experience on the international level over the summer, sophomore Ariana Gardizy is having a breakout year for Penn women's cross country.

Credit: Chase Sutton

Ariana Gardizy is making a name for herself as one of Penn women's cross country’s most promising rising stars.

With a second-place performance at the USA Track & Field U20 Outdoor Championships and a fourth-place finish at the Pan American U20 Athletics Championships earlier this year, the sophomore is steadily improving and is thriving off the upward trajectory.

The Nursing student had an early introduction to cross country and was immediately drawn to the sport.

“Probably in sixth grade I got into running, or maybe fifth grade. My stepdad would run some 5Ks with my sister and me for fun," Gardizy said. "I have a twin sister and we grew up doing every different sport together, like basketball, field hockey. We joined a CYO track group in sixth grade so we’d just be literally running for fun, and freshman year of high school, that’s when I started cross country.”

Fast forward a few years, and Gardizy was beginning the college application process. The Lansdale, Pa. native immediately fell in love with Penn.

“I knew I wanted to go into nursing or something healthcare related," she said. “My mom’s a nurse so I always looked up to her.”

The Nursing and cross country programs both drew her to the school, but being close to home never factored into her decision.

“Everyone gets five official visits, but I only ended up taking two, just because I liked Penn so much I just cancelled all the others," Gardizy said. “I took one visit to Boise State in Idaho, and then the next weekend I came here and committed.”

Gardizy’s journey hasn’t always been smooth, but she describes how training in Philadelphia for the Pan American Games in Costa Rica helped ease the transition from freshman to sophomore year.

“I thought it was so easy and smooth," she said. "So I actually kept training at the end of spring track season and I was training after school ended just for the U20 Champs in the middle of the summer, which is why I went to Costa Rica. So I felt like I was on campus for the entire time.”

Training during the summer is a major factor that can allow runners to take their game to the next level.

“For cross country, the fitness can’t happen in a short period of time, so the work that’s done over the summer really sets the table for it," coach Steve Dolan said. "The general fitness that they have from the work over the summer is really essential, and Ariana for sure worked really hard, as did her teammates at large. That’s really a big part of the success we’re having.”

Dolan also emphasized how much Ariana and the rest of the Quakers have progressed from last year to this year.

“It’s been very exciting actually, because one season kind of builds on the next, and we had a very good track and field season last year," he said. "So I think Ariana is a representation of how other runners had breakthroughs on the track and went into the summer motivated to take that to cross country. They worked really hard in the summertime and I think the success of last track season and a good summer really set it up well for the fall."

“It’s exciting, and the fun thing for the group is that as we go into the Ivy League championships, they’re one of the teams that’s dreaming about trying to win, which is a pretty exciting position to be in," Dolan added.

The strong team dynamic is something that drives Ariana to continue to push her limits, and she believes that the commitment, teamwork, and accountability on her team make everyone feel that there are big things ahead.