Yelm High School Athletics announced on Friday that the school’s top cross country runner, senior Bryce Cerkowniak, is committed to run for the Gonzaga University Bulldogs next fall.
The announcement was made on Twitter Friday, Oct. 30.
“Great academics, great team and coach,” he said in a statement. “I’m excited to compete at the D1 level for a coach and a team that will make me better! Huge thank you to coach Baker and coach McIntire for your support.”
Cerkowniak last year was a force to be reckoned with on the course. He led the competition to place first individually at both the South Sound Conference Championships and the West Central Districts Cross Country Championships.
He also helped lead the Tornados’ best-ever boys cross country team to a first-place team finish at the SSC championships and a fourth-place finish at West Central.
The Yelm team was able to walk away from the state 3A meet with a seventh-place finish, and Cerkowniak’s run led him to place in fifth at the meet that year.
“I’m just really proud to be his coach, and it makes the community proud,” said Head Boys Cross Country Coach Alex McIntire. “And I’m just inspired by the work that he does. He’s someone that athletes are going to be able to look up to for a long time.”
In addition to committing to run cross country and track and field for the Bulldogs in the Division I West Coast Conference, Cerkowniak will also be attending the university on scholarship.
“It’s exciting. It’s his dream, and so it’s really nice to make his dream happen,” said Angie Cerkowniak, his mother. “We had a parent Zoom meeting to chat, and it seems like it’s going to be a good fit. Coach (Pat) Tyson is a great guy.”
Angie Cerkowniak added that Bryce plans on studying engineering. She said it’s nice that Gonzaga has both successful programs.
McIntire said the Bulldogs cross country team is becoming a more competitive program with each passing season, and so it’s inspiring to see Cerkowniak attend a school that could be a national powerhouse in just a short amount of time.
Cerkowniak was also in talks with coaches at the University of Idaho and Boise State, both McIntire and Angie Cerkowniak say.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the Tornados have kept student-led practices (not led by coaches) going and have continued to run — even with the status of a season starting this March up in the air due to increasing virus cases.
“These kids are working so hard, and they’re doing the best that they can to be the best. They have continued to work together and run together since the pandemic started,” McIntire said. “Their drive is to be the best team in the state of Washington … (and) I’ve been really inspired by these kids.”
Cerkowniak was unable to comment by print deadline. An updated version of this story will be available online at www.yelmonline.com.
This article was edited to clarify detail on student-led practices.