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Nicolet National Bank Senior Spotlight: Notre Dame Academy, Isaac Nowak, cross country and track

By Greg Bates

Name: Isaac Nowak

Parents: Tony and Michelle Nowak

Activity: Cross country and track

Nicknames: Randy. One day Isaac wore some funny glasses to practice his sophomore year and one of the junior told Isaac those are glasses “like a guy named Randy would wear.”

Instagram: Isaac_eastwood22

Isaac ran for the Notre Dame Academy cross country team — where he holds the school record in the 5K — for all four years. After having his freshman season of track and field cancelled due to COVID, Isaac will be in his third season in the spring. He used to compete in a winter sport, cross-country skiing, but he will do indoor track this year. Track will be through RunCCG, which is based out of Texas. Through the club, Isaac will be given workouts and the company will help him sign up for races during the winter.

Why is running so big in your life?

“For me, it’s just kind of a way to get outside. That was kind of one of the first reasons I did it. At first, I wanted to play football, but I was too small, so I figured I would do something. After I found success in it, it’s been just really fun overall. It takes a lot of stress away from just every day going to school. I don’t know what I’d be doing if I didn’t do it.”

How have you become so success as a runner?

“I would say the biggest thing probably is just working hard. Going into freshmen year, I wasn’t really the best runner. I had a friend who was also a freshman and he almost lapped me in the mile in middle school. Pushing yourself in practices, but being smart about it. Not going and running with the fastest group when it’s your first time running. Making sure you’re recovering, eating well.”

If you would have told yourself in middle school that as a senior you’d be the top runner on the team that won the state cross country title, what would you have said?

“I have no idea how I would have been able to process it. I was not really a good runner in middle school, I don’t think I was bad. But, like I said, I averaged like 10 th in the mile in eighth grade, and I almost got lapped multiple times. Then I played tackle football every single year in middle school, no cross country at all. I would have never believed you.”

What was it like to be the top runner on the team that won state?

“I guess being the first runner on the team wasn’t as important to me as the team winning. Obviously, it meant a lot that I was able to be all the way up front and be in the top five, which was my goal going into the season. I ended up fourth, which I honestly surprised myself. Then just knowing that I could contribute a small part of points for the team, that meant a lot.”

Where does winning a state title rank in the coolest things that’s ever happened in your life?

“I’d be lying to you if I didn’t say it was number one, so it’s definitely the coolest thing. I never would have believed I would ever win a state championship, and sharing it with the people in my team, guys who did and didn’t run, my coaches. The runners that came before us, there were a bunch of them at the race. It was crazy.”

What do you like to do besides run?

“Honestly, not a whole lot. I do a lot of training. If I’m not doing something, I might go do something with my friends, go hang out at their house or something. Otherwise, I love watching football. I love just playing other sports, too.”

What’s your favorite sport besides running to play?

“When I can get my friends to do it, I love playing soccer. I used to live in Spain for three years, third through fifth grade. We moved over there for my dad’s job, we lived in Madrid. And I really got to embrace the culture there, especially that soccer thing. When I can get my friends to play soccer, I love to play soccer.”

What was it like to live in Madrid for three years?

“It was definitely an experience of a lifetime. It’s kind of strange, because we don’t speak the language, but we definitely picked up on it rather quickly. I wouldn’t say any of us are fluent, but most of us in my family can understand when people are saying stuff. It was pretty sick, because we got to go all over the world.”

You obviously love traveling. Where’s the coolest place you’ve visited?

“Funny enough, the coolest place I’ve been to is actually in the United States. I’d say probably the Grand Canyon was probably the coolest place I’ve ever been to.”

How many countries did you visit when you lived in Spain?

“Probably around six or seven.”

What’s the important thing in your life right now?

“Honestly, running is pretty important, but I’d say probably number one is my faith. I’m Catholic and my whole family is Catholic — dad’s family, mom’s family, everybody for the most part is Catholic. I’d say it’s definitely a big part of my identity, because it just helps me get through things and it also helps me stay on the right track. It gives me a path to follow.”

What are you doing on a typical Friday night during the school year?

“We have eighth hour off, so I’ll go get my workout done and then I’ll probably come home, do strength or something and then after that, if I’m not staying home, I’ll probably go over to my friend’s house, might play a little poker. We’ll see how much money I rob from him that time.”

What do you like about school?

“The people. I don’t want to be too obvious, but the cross country team and the people I met there, so just going through school with them.”

What’s your favorite subject in school?

“I’m kind of a history guy. It kind of depends on time during the class, because there’s certain things I like about certain questions. I’m never a math guy, but right now I’d taking AP statistics and I kind of like that class. Then I don’t like science most of the time, but right now I’m taking an environmental science class and I like that a lot.”

What do you want to accomplish the remainder of your senior season?

“Athletically, so a little backstory. We lost to Shorewood last year in cross country and then we also lost to them in the 4×800 at state (track), we got second to them twice. So, we definitely want to beat them in the 4×800 in track this year. It’s kind of unfinished business, we call it. Maybe just get a couple more school records, too.”

What are you plans next year for college?

“Not sure. I will be running in college somewhere. I just don’t know where yet.”

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