Markezich's Dream Season Ends at Olympic Trials

Updated: Sep 28, 2021

Bear Creek alum finished Second-Team All-American at Nationals for Notre Dame.

Olivia Markezich clears a steeple barrier at the 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon. Photo taken by Denis McGrath.

Olivia Markezich is coming off of a dream season unlike any other in the steeplechase in her first year of collegiate track and field running for Notre Dame.

But the preparation to get herself in the position she's in now with this event didn't happen over the last few months.

Markezich was one of the most recent elite runners to come from the 1A classification in Washington, having attended The Bear Creek School and competed in multiple cross country and track and field state championships earning all-state honors and a state title in the 800-meter her senior season.

However, Markezich was introduced to another event where she would also find success by her dad, Ron, a former Notre Dame runner himself, that wasn't familiar to many in Washington because it wasn't an official WIAA event; the steeplechase.

“I had little practice on it, but I never got coached on it in high school,” said Markezich. “My dad suggested I try it out, and he didn’t know how to steeple either."

With no experience and knowledge between the two, Markezich managed to find a way to qualify for the New Balance Outdoor Nationals meet her senior year of high school, even though she had run it on one other occasion.

“The only other steeple race I had done before New Balance Nationals was at the Portland Track Festival,” said Markezich. “There were only five girls in that race, and I was kind of running alone, so it made it easier to get over the hurdles. When I got to new balance nationals, it was very different having to run with a pack.”

Even in a race featuring 37 other runners, Markezich placed third overall in her first national-level race. Right then, she knew this was going to be her race in college—no practice, no proper training, just pure, natural ability.

“I think being exposed to it in high school has made it easier to getting into steepling in college,” said Markezich. “But it’s still very different in college because I had to learn how to steeple efficiently and get good form down because I never really had good form in high school."

Little did Markezich know she would be one of the best steeplechasers in the entire country at the NCAA level two years after graduating high school. With a personal best time of 9:42.41, she was ranked 13th in the entire country this season.

“With all the uncertainty going on, we just wanted to focus on what came next,” said Markezich.

“Our strategy for the whole season was to hit a regional time at the beginning of the season, so I didn’t have to race as much and worry about it later on.”

Just a few weeks after finishing up at the indoor national meet, Markezich had already met her goal in the first meet of the outdoor season at the Raleigh Relays.

“I didn’t race the steeple again until the ACC Championships, and then regionals, of course," said Markezich. “Taking a month off from steepling, I had a lot more practice under my belt, and I was more comfortable doing it."

Markezich was second at the ACC Championships and then fifth at the East Region meet, qualifying herself for the national meet at the newly constructed Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon.

“I was more nervous going into nationals than any other race,” said Markezich. "Through the prelim, I just wanted to get out with the pack and hang on and qualify for finals."

Markezich made it past the prelim round and went onto finish 10th overall in the final to earn second-team All-American honors.

"Going into finals, I was even more nervous, but I was still happy with the outcome even though my goal was to make first-team All-American," said Markezich. "It was such a competitive field this season with so many amazing people running steeple, so, unfortunately, I didn’t reach that goal."

Even after an All-American season running for the Irish, the year was extended by one more racing week for Markezich. Markezich's second-place run at the ACC Championships was run in a time of 9:45.72, earning herself the opportunity to compete for a spot on this year's Olympic team.

“I didn’t think it would ever be in reach,” said Markezich. “But after my indoor track season, I saw the standard was 9:50, and I figured I could hit that mark in the outdoor season.”

In a field featuring professional athletes and Olympians Emma Coburn and Courtney Frerichs, Markezich was one of 14 collegiate athletes to compete in the 33-women field.

“Before the trials, I tried not to get too hyped up for it or psych myself out,” said Markezich. “I was thinking beforehand, ‘What if I’m on the start line with Emma Coburn?’, but I tried to put those thoughts aside and treat this like any other race.”

The Bear Creek alum finished 26th in the preliminary round with a time of 10:00.45.

“It wasn’t my best race, but it was such a cool experience getting to race these people that I’ve been watching for so long and admire,” said Markezich. “It didn’t really hit me until after the race when I realized I just raced at the trials.”

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