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Junior sprinter Jocelyn Niemiec poses with the 2023 Penn Relays issue.

Credit: Weining Ding

There’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance, a balance that athletes must maintain consistently when talking to the media. While some may struggle with that line, junior sprinter Jocelyn Niemiec tows it gracefully. She puts forth just the right amount of self-assurance while still acknowledging the help she has received along her track career.

Women's track and field coach Chené Townsend recalled that “when [she] met [Jocelyn] freshman year, she was already a confident person.”  This is something Townsend tries to instill in her athletes from the get-go, but Niemiec didn’t need coaching in this area. Townsend described her personality as "strong" and "bold."

With the amount of accolades Niemiec has received, breaking four program records, it is hard to believe that she wasn’t always a runner. Never not an athlete, she grew up playing soccer for eight years before making the transition to track in high school. Although it was hidden on the soccer field, Niemiec’s speed lent a helpful hand to her club team.

“In soccer … I was a defender, so they would just put me on the opponent’s fastest person," Niemiec said. She possessed almost as much talent on the field as she does on the track, but quickly figured out that she didn’t have the passion to continue club soccer in the future. Her parents wouldn’t let her quit without a second option — so she made the leap to track.

While many are unable to make such a transition late in their athletic career, Niemiec landed right on her feet, saying, “It turned out I was really good at it, like much better than I was at soccer.” She started out as a sprinter, but quickly found her niche in the 400m. 

Despite her natural talent, she recalls that her first meet was met with nerves: “I had never felt that nervous before … my stomach felt like it was in my throat."

Maybe nerves are a signifier of passion, because it seems like the track is exactly where Niemiec belongs. 

Upon making the transition to Penn, Niemiec struggled a bit before finding her rhythm. High school to college is never an easy switch, but all athletes have to find their place on a new team with a new audience. 

“It’s a very typical freshman experience: You come to college, and you’re not the best anymore," Niemiec said. "You’re like a hometown hero in high school; you win all your heats, it’s easy, and then you come to college and everyone’s good.” 

By her sophomore season, Niemiec had found her groove and established herself as a reliable runner for the team. Senior hurdler Aliya Garozzo complimented her consistent success: “She’s very dependable, and I can easily … put my trust in her to get the job done and rise to the occasion when it’s needed.”

Credit: Weining Ding

Junior sprinter Jocelyn Niemiec poses with a TV on Feb. 28.

Like most professional runners, Niemiec possesses an inner clock and an innate ability to track her pace when running. Describing Penn’s recent race at Clemson (Feb. 9-10) and her 4x400 group, Niemiec said: “Christy [Christiana Nwachuku], when I saw her run her first leg, I knew that that was the fastest I’ve ever seen her go. And when I was running … I knew that I was running faster than ever before.”

Niemiec has run for the 4x400 team since her freshman year at Penn with the same group of five girls. There’s a certain amount of trust that comes with being a part of a relay team, and the 4x400 group has no problem connecting on a regular basis. In addition to seeing each other at practice every day, they make a conscious effort to lean on each other in moments of need and have regular meetings the night before meets. 

Some of Niemiec’s best track memories have been with her 4x400 relay team. Both she and Garozzo, the relay team’s anchor, picked their record-setting performance at the recent Clemson meet when asked about their favorite memories. 

“Before the meet, we had such great energy about the group,” Garozzo recalled. “[It] was a really awesome moment because [Jocelyn] also had an awesome split and it was just cool to really share that moment with her.” 

The women’s team is fresh off of a victory at the Indoor Heptagonal Championships, but the future has much more in store for them. Niemiec’s excitement only grows as she looks forward to the rest of the season. In two weeks the team will be traveling to Boston for the NCAA Indoor Championships. “It’s the most prestigious meet that you can make,” she said. “Being surrounded by people who have been to the Olympics, … it’s just really a different feeling … you push yourself beyond what you expect.”

Regarding the upcoming outdoor season, which concludes with the NCAA Outdoor Championships, Niemiec is looking to the stars and beyond. 

“I don’t know where our boundaries are," Niemiec said. "The sky is truly the limit. We are writing our own story here [and] I don’t know where it’s going to lead.”