Nobody believed Josh Trzeciak. Not his girlfriend, not even his friends or teammates — not yet at least. There was just one other person who had no doubt Trzeciak could live up to his bold claim, and that was Thomas S. Wootton High School track and field coach Kellie Redmond.
Trzeciak, a rising senior at Wootton, had predicted he was going to run a 4 minute, 20 second mile in just the second meet of the year.
He had competed in the mile just one time since his freshman year and he finished in an unimpressive 4:45.14. That was just four days prior to his declaration that he was going to cross the line in 4:20. A time like that so early in the year, far from the end of season peak, was unheard of, not to mention he was also coming off an Achilles tendon injury that kept him off the track for the entire indoor season. Yet there was no doubt that the 4:20 was there. Not in his mind or Redmond’s, they both said.
“[Redmond] has more confidence in me than I do and I’m a pretty confident kid,” Trzeciak said. “I’m an arrogant kid so that says something.”
He got to the starting line late, lining up far behind the pack that was led by Winston Churchill’s Will Conway, the 4A state champ in the event in the indoor season.
“I thought ‘oh this is great,’” he said.
His time at the rear was short-lived. Before long he was leading, and then he stretched his advantage, finishing in 4:18.74, four seconds ahead of Conway and living up to his outlandish prediction.
After the race Trzeciak said his girlfriend confessed she didn’t think he could do it.
“I don’t think anyone did,” he said he told her.
Well, there was always Redmond, who never lacked faith in her new star middle distance runner. She even had enough confidence in the junior that, at the last minute, she switched Trzeciak and Jamie Ertel in the distance medley. Initially, Ertel, a senior, was the only Patriot miler and was planning on running the 1,600-meter anchor leg.
“She knew I hated to lose,” Trzeciak said of Redmond’s decision to have him anchor instead of Ertel.
And so, for the second time in that early-season meet, he ran an eye-opening mile, a 4:21 split, chasing down Our Lady of Good Counsel’s John Lynagh for a 2-second victory.
“I know Josh and if there’s one thing does exceptionally well it’s running from behind,” Redmond said. “He’s really, really good at that and he’s going to do whatever it takes to win.”
Any chance that his time was a fluke was debunked on April 13 at a dual meet with Churchill. It was the county’s first ever dual meet on a Friday night, according Bulldogs’ coach Scott Silverstein, and it set the scene for the budding and friendly rivalry between Trzeciak and Conway.
By the half-mile mark the two had separated themselves from the pack, setting up a one-on-one battle for the finish. For the next 700 meters they ran shoulder-to-shoulder, entering the final straightaway at a dead tie.
But Conway’s longer strides began to cover slightly more ground than the shorter Trzeciak’s. With 10 meters left it became evident that Trzeciak didn’t have it in him to hold off Conway. They finished in times of 4:16.1 and 4:16.6
“You never see that,” Silverstein said two days after the meet. “It’s one of the most memorable races I’ve ever seen. It’s everything you could have ever wanted at a race.”
On May 26, more than a month after that race captivated the Wootton-Churchill dual meet, Mitzi Trzeciak’s phone wasn’t lighting up. That was a problem. She couldn’t make it to the second day of the Maryland Outdoor Championships to watch Josh run the 800 and 1,600, and like any devoted mother she was anxiously watching her phone, waiting for a text from her husband, Adam.
“When it’s bad news there’s a delay,” she said. There was a delay.
“I got a crash and burn feeling,” she said.
It wasn’t Josh’s day. He finished seventh in the 1,600, laboring in his final two laps to run his worst time since the first meet of the season.
“I was unpleasant to talk to,” Josh said. “I got over it and thought about it and said, ‘It’s your first season running the mile. You go out and run your 800 and do what you know you can do.’”
There was never any doubt in his mind that he was going to return home to Rockville with a state title.
“I’ll be honest, I had a little doubt about the mile,” he said. “I had no doubt about the 800. I hate losing. I’ll do whatever it takes to win. If that’s a 4:16 [mile] or a 1:54  then that’s it.”
He went on to win his first state title in 1:54.5, three seconds faster than his previous personal best. The win capped off an undefeated season in the 800, winning all eight meets by a combined 24 1/4 seconds.
Said Redmond, who was not one bit surprised by Trzeciak’s breakout year in both the 1,600 and the 800:
“He’s built for this.”