Polish Track Star Seeks American Dream

After setting a meet record at the MWC Indoor Championships in the triple jump, Kamila Rywelska clinched another triple jump title last Saturday at the MWC Outdoor Championships.

PROVO -- When Kamila Rywelska boarded a plane in Warsaw, Poland to come over 5,500 miles to Brigham Young University, she had no idea what actually awaited her.

Accustomed to long jumps, BYU's top triple jumper had to take three connecting flights to land here in the middle of the Rocky Mountains.

"I thought we had mountains in Poland, but they were not like this at all," Kamila said. "The campus was a shock as well, everything is so beautiful and safe here. In Poland I lived near the sea, but here I love to see the mountains. It is kind of different for me."

Different is a blaring understatement; the town of Pastek in Poland is no more than a village with a population of roughly 10,000 people. There are no gyms, no tracks and no stadiums.

Kamila, who began to run track four years ago, trained on a trail that wound through the forest near her hometown. She recalls running on snowy days and sunny days, but admits that it is a lot nicer to run on BYU's modern track.

"The coaches and facilities (at BYU) are great," she said. "There I had nothing, here we have almost everything.

BYU's newest jumper is quickly gaining a reputation in the Mountain West Conference. Currently, Kamila has the leading triple jump mark in the conference and is the indoor jumping champion.

"She is a good long jumper but her big event is triple jump," BYU women's head coach Craig Poole said. "She's the best on the team."

He's not kidding. Already she has the best mark in this event by a distance of three feet. Right now she is working on her approach seeking to stretch her outdoor mark of 13.10 meters or 43-01.50.

"I think the triple jump is my favorite event," Kamila said. "That is why right now we are working so much on my approach. I'm learning to improve my stride. I know it will help me in both the long and triple jump."

The coaches are confident that Kamila will make an immediate impact on the overall performance of the team.

"Kamila is going to be awesome," Poole said. "She is just an awesome all-around athlete and a really wonderful person."

Friend and fellow track athlete Aneta Lemiesz, who is also from Poland, played an important role in bringing Kamila to BYU. Kamila ultimately decided to come to Provo after Coach Poole met with her in Poland and invited her to come out and join the team.

Kamila comes from an athletic family. Her mother is the basketball coach at the local school in Pastek while her father is a track coach.

"In Poland I would practice with him," Kamila said. "Actually, they both used to run track when they were younger."

Not only did she work hard at track, she also pushed herself in her school work.

"At home in Poland I didn't have time to really focus on my technique," she said. "I just focused on studying seriously for school. That is why it is so great that I am here. I can do both. I love being in Provo. It is a very safe city for students. I have to focus on my English, so it is much better for me."

Kamila, who is 20 years old, has shown a lot of maturity living away from family and friends. She says it has been an adjustment, but she seems to have adapted to the new culture amazingly well.

"I watched Friends for two hours last night," she said smiling. "I have great roommates and so many nice friends. This place is great. I don't even want to go back to Poland, other than to visit my family. I love people here and the school, it gives me a chance to do the two things that I enjoy. I can practice and I can study."

Kamila was studying accounting in Poland, and she hopes to continue her studies in finance here at BYU.

"When I came here my English wasn't so good," Kamila said. "But after one year I can speak much better. I learn English by talking to roommates and watching television.

As the summer draws closer rumors are spreading that the Polish Olympic team may have a spot for Kamila as a triple jumper.

"I don't know what her country will decide," Poole said. "If she jumps over fourteen meters, she could make it. I think she's about five weeks away from doing that."

But Kamila is staying focused right now on the task at hand--competing in the Mountain West Conference.

"I think that I've made great progress here thanks to Coach Poole," she said. "I feel good and I know that I'm very close to the minimum requirements for the Olympics. Right now I don't want to think about it because I am just so young, and it would really be a big surprise for me."

Kamila's three jumps from Poland to Provo took her to former Olympic cities, Paris, Atlanta and Salt Lake City. She now hopes her three jumps in Provo will land her in another Olympic city in a few months.

Tags: Feature