Daniel Michalski’s life on the track has been a journey filled with both highs and lows.
Now a graduate transfer at IU, Michalski’s first taste of track and field didn’t even begin until his senior year at Xenia High School in his hometown of Xenia, Ohio.
“Going into my senior year, I decided I was gonna put all my eggs in one basket and try this running thing for real,” Michalski said.
He dropped baseball and basketball to focus on track his final year in hopes of proving himself as a legitimate prospect for colleges around the country.
Michalski joined the Cedarville University track and field team to begin his collegiate career. The university, a private Christian school just 12 miles away from his parents home, was a perfect fit for the religious Michalski.
“My relationship with Jesus Christ informs so much of what I do and how I approach my decisions,” Michalski said.
Whether it was the proximity to his childhood home or his relationship with Jesus, Michalski left no doubt that he made the right decision. He left his mark on Cedarville by becoming the school’s first men’s national champion after winning the 3,000-meter steeplechase in 2017 at the Division II NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Oregon. Along with that, Michalski holds the school record in both the 3,000-meter steeplechase and the 4x800 relay.
In his time at Cedarville though, Michalski also suffered two major injuries, one on each foot. In his junior season of cross country, he sustained a tibial stress reaction knocking him out for the whole season.
The following year he sustained a metatarsal stress reaction in the opposite foot, which kept him from competing in track his final season.
“I really love this sport, I have a lot of fun with it, and I’ve been successful so to have it taken away really sucked,” Michalski said. “But I was trusting that something good would come of it.”
Now, Michalski is the first to say that something good did in fact come of it — an opportunity to continue school and run track at IU.
After graduating from Cedarville in the spring of 2018, Michalski knew he was ready to explore his options as a graduate transfer, so he personally reached out to IU assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Andrew Poore and expressed his interest in becoming a Hoosier.
Michalski’s said he was looking for not only a school where runners had developed from good to great, but also a school where he could see himself thriving in academically. In his opinion, IU fit that mold perfectly.
“I felt really good about IU after I came here to visit,” Michalski said. “Just a first-class athlete experience.”
Coming off of a major injury like that, finding a school willing to take him on as a transfer was tough, but for IU Coach Ron Helmer the decision to add Michalski was easy.
“We saw someone who just wanted to get good,” Helmer said. “He seemed to be a good kid who was very excited about getting better.”
But nobody — not Helmer, not his teammates, and not even Michalski himself — knew just how good things would turn out. Now, just a year removed from his major injury and as a member of the men’s distance medley relay team, Michalski holds an IU school record and the seventh fastest time ever ran on an indoor track in the NCAA.
“To get to be a part of the DMR was an awesome experience,” Michalski said. “There’s something really special about doing it as a team.”
As much fun and success as Michalski has had on the track, there’s something else he gets very excited about at IU: bacon-infused waffles.
One of Michalski’s passions outside of the sport is cooking. Whether it’s with friends, his girlfriend or his teammates, he loves to cook and try new things.
“When I do cook, I like to share it because then you can share the experience,” Michalski said.
His love of cooking doesn’t change even when he eats in the athletes cafeteria inside Memorial Stadium. He still manages to find his own unique way of cooking. He takes bacon and lines the waffle iron with it. He then proceeds to pour pancake batter over the top of the bacon. This new creation is something that Michalski said he’s been trying to spread the word on.
With the way Michalski’s been running, it may just be the key to his success.
With the Big Ten Championships just around the corner and the indoor season coming to a close, Michalski’s looking to end his journey on top. Fueled by both hard work and bacon-infused waffles, Michalski has run qualifying times in multiple events — the 5,000-meter, 3,000-meter, mile and distance medley relay. This gives the coaching staff leeway as to what event he will partake in come championship time.
“The goal there is to win as a team and see what I can do as an individual to contribute to that,” Michalski said.
Michalski hasn’t taken anything on this journey for granted. He said he's happy to be where he’s at in his collegiate career and gives credit to God. Before each race, he tries to find quiet time to focus in on the things that matter.
“Part of that quiet time is just centering in and humbling myself,” Michalski said. “Acknowledging that God is the giver of the gifts that I have.”