As the old saying goes, persistence pays off.
For senior Ariana Gardizy, that phrase could not ring more true. As a sophomore in 2019, she was a rising star on the track and field and cross country teams. She even competed on the national and international level, with a second-place title at USA Track & Field U20 Outdoor Championships and a fourth-place finish at the Pan American U20 Athletics Championships.
“[The Pan American Championships were] probably one of the best things that I've been able to do at Penn,” Gardizy said. “I never actually thought that I would make it that far, so like, remembering that day, that'll always stick out to me, like knowing that I made it.”
Then the pandemic happened.
Having been running since sixth grade, Gardizy found the months of isolation during the pandemic difficult.
“I was like, ‘I can go without one season of track’ … but then, as the fall came around, it was like, ‘okay, never mind, no cross country,’ so it became harder to [stay motivated],” Gardizy said. She also found it hard to keep training without the team, saying, “We didn't even really have the team at that point, because not everyone was on campus [in the fall], so staying motivated by myself was definitely hard.”
But the now-senior did not let it get to her and persisted the months she was off the tracks.
“[I learned to not] take anything for granted, that’s for sure,” Gardizy comments. Indeed, the senior made strives during the pandemic.
As a Nursing student, she became a part of a research team with Dr. Ariana Chao and interned with Chao this past summer. In her research, Gardizy studied the effect of binge-eating during COVID-19 for people with obesity, a paper she hopes to publish in spring 2022. The student-athlete speaks highly of Dr. Chao, calling her a “really great mentor.”
“I enjoy having lab meetings with her every Monday and getting to hear about what her other students are working on.” Gardizy said.
She also became a licensed realtor, where she used her familiarity with the Philly area to help others get to know the city. Combined with her research experience, she fostered her interests in finance and healthcare during the pandemic as she started her senior year at Penn.
As for her running career, Gardizy is a true runner at heart, and she hit the ground running when the tracks reopened. In the spring of 2021, when the outdoor track season restarted, Gardizy ran as if the pandemic never hindered her. She placed first in the 3000m at the Penn Challenge, clocking in at 9:37.94, a personal best and 10th best in the track program’s history. At the Quaker Invitational, she sped through the 1,500m with a personal-best time of 4:29.33. She ended the year with another career-best time of 34:45.57 with the 10,000m at the Penn Twilight, the third best time in the program’s history.
Come fall, and Gardizy was named one of the cross country team captains along with senior Noah Carey, and it’s easy to see why she was the natural pick. Her momentum did not slow in the fall’s cross country season. Placing 15th with a time of 21:09.2 on the 6K course, she led the women’s team to a fifth-place finish in this year’s Ivy League Heptagonal Championships.
Gardizy also led the women’s team to a 10th place finish at this year’s NCAA Mid-Atlantic Conference Championships, placing 22nd with a time of 21:07.9 on the 6K course and beating her Heps time by two seconds.
The senior credits her past captains for her leadership style. “We’ve had great captains: Karli [Visconto], Maddie Villalba, and Melissa Tanaka last year. They've all just been really good leaders to look up to. Getting that recognition that going into the season, I really wanted to live up to what they had done previous years.”
Gardizy hopes that the team can keep the ball rolling given the team’s past wins as the track seasons begin. Simultaneously, she continues to find success academically and was accepted into Villanova’s MBA program, where she will be next year.
Gardizy has been a key player in the track and field and cross country teams. As the runner continues the path of life, she is bound to thrive, thanks to her persistence and perseverance.