Trout Creek, Mont., is home to just 400 people — and one star weight thrower.
Allen Czerwinski ’03, captain of both the indoor and outdoor men’s track teams, grew up in Trout Creek.
Montana State University, the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University, Columbia University, and Yale all recruited him for their throwing teams, specifically for the javelin, his best event. But the soft-spoken Czerwinski wanted to leave his small town for New Haven.
This weekend, at the indoor Heptagonal Championship, Czerwinski’s leadership will play a key role in determining whether Yale finishes in the top half of the Ivy League. The meet serves as the Ivy League’s championship.
Czerwinski said his goal is to finish fourth in the weight throw at the Heptagonals.
“Al’s [Czerwinski] not a very vocal leader,” said Anthony Thomas ’03, a sprinter and long jumper who met Czerwinski on a recruiting trip to Penn back in high school. “He leads by example — He works hard for the team.”
Success, both academic and athletic, has marked Czerwinski’s life from childhood to this weekend, the last indoor Heptagonals of his career. He was valedictorian of his high school class, never earning a grade below A. And he won state championships in wrestling, baseball and javelin.
“I didn’t lose very often, which came to be a problem,” Czerwinski said. “I didn’t like losing.”
His success came despite a battle with a mild case of Tourette’s Syndrome, which Czerwinski said has not impeded his performance in track but has led other kids to make fun of him.
“That was an interesting entity to deal with in my former years of sports,” Czerwinski said. “I would get crap about it.”
He suffers from a head shake and other tics. His father, Joe Czerwinski, said Allen has spoken with him a number of times about his health condition.
“He has said that people just get used to it,” Joe Czerwinski said.
Allen Czerwinski also had a congenital deformity in his skull formation that required an operation, leaving him with a scar from ear to ear.
“They had to cut out about a third of my skull and drain a bunch of fluid,” Czerwinski said.
Because of an increased risk of seizure, Czerwinski could not play football. Instead, he competed in basketball, track and cross country for his high school. Czerwinski calls cross country an “interesting experience in humility.”
“I wanted to have done three sports and be a triathlete,” Czerwinski said of his decision to run cross country.
When Czerwinski came to Yale, he struggled, perhaps for the first time.
“Academics blew me away freshman year,” Czerwinski said. “I was playing catch-up the whole year.”
French, he said, particularly confounded him. Czerwinski said he still remembers when the teacher finished introducing herself in English and began to speak entirely in French.
“I was lost, to put it mildly,” Czerwinski said.
But while he struggled for the first two years of college academically, he said he now has adapted.
“It’s really just been a matter of becoming comfortable with my strengths and weaknesses,” Czerwinski said.
Czerwinski tends to succeed in classes in which he has a high level of interest. A psychology major, he is now preparing to balance a senior essay with his athletic life.
“I’m confident that I can do [the essay],” Czerwinski said. “I just have to force myself to sit down.”
His father Joe said Allen Czerwinski has talked about coaching after college. Allen Czerwinski worked on javelin technique with his younger brother Douglas Czerwinski ’06 this past summer and enjoyed the teaching experience. Now, Douglas Czerwinski also throws for Yale’s team.
Allen Czerwinski works with the rest of his teammates, too. Sprinter Brandon McKay ’03 said Czerwinski was able to keep the team focused for the upcoming Heptagonals.
“Al is a good leader,” McKay said. “But he’s not like your type of raw, raw leader — He leads by example.”
Czerwinski has had previous success at the Heptagonals, finishing third and fourth in the javelin at the outdoor Heptagonals his freshman and junior years, respectively. Last year, he finished sixth at the indoor Heptagonals in the weight throw.
His best weight throw, 52 feet 6 inches, came sophomore year. He said he will need to beat that personal record and throw between 53 and 54 feet to place fourth this weekend.
No matter what happens this weekend, Czerwinski still has one more collegiate season of outdoor track and the javelin, his best event.