Branford’s Wasiolek Staying on Track with Mercy
The sport of running can often exhibit the purest form of athleticism and competition, as it is the body and the mind waging war. Tess Wasiolek has grasped that concept, and reprogrammed herself to have a much more tranquil and calm head space to race swiftly to the finish line.
The Branford resident and Mercy High School senior track star grew up playing basketball before starting cross country during her middle school ages. Though now with Mercy, Tess saw several accolades while a member of the Branford indoor and outdoor track programs.
She was the Branford school record holder in the outdoor 1600 (which has since been broken) that she notched her sophomore year in five minutes and 7.92 seconds, and still holds the indoor record in the 800 at 2:21.80. Furthermore, she was an SCC champion in the 800 for the outdoor circuit in 2022, and part of the winning 4x400 and 1600 sprint medley indoor relay teams in the 2021-22 campaign.
“Being on a team really made me like the sport of running, along with a coach that motivates me. I also love making connections with fellow runners and teammates,” says Tess. “A big thing that has helped me is overcoming anxieties with the sport. Once I push those anxieties out, I am able to really enjoy the sport. All of those accomplishments I had with Branford helped motivate me. When I started earning those successes, it was eye-opening to me, because I saw I could go somewhere with all this. It just makes me want to go further.”
When Tess first trekked out as a Hornet during her freshman year, she faced a challenge in trying to go the distance for lengthier heats at a blazing pace. Yet with diligent year-round training, along with the natural experience of playing through the pain mid-stride, she added speed and stamina along the way as she grew older.
“My speed has improved a lot over time. It was something I struggled with as a freshman. I just kept training and pushing myself, along with doing speed-based workouts. I also got better through just pushing through any pain, plus as I got older, I was able to go out for longer runs.”
Tess has discovered that one of the biggest speed bumps in competitive running can be living rent free in one’s own head. She reflects that it is a factor that increases its propensity in her upperclassmen seasons, though she counters it by simply not putting so much heat upon herself.
“When I was younger, it was easier to overcome the mental aspects and hurdles of the sport,” says Tess. “I got too much in my head as I got older. Maybe I was putting too much pressure on myself based on my past success. But now this year, I am not putting as much pressure on myself. The less pressure has helped me a lot with the anxiety and mental aspects of track and running.”
Life is all about balance, and Tess has certainly surmised that in her four years as a student-athlete with a body, mind, and soul constantly in motion. She explains that no matter how many miles she logs in a day, or how many minutes are blocked out in the books, she always makes sure to allow for a block to socialize with her friends and colleagues.
“A big thing is staying focused on both sports and school work are important, but you also have to maintain a social aspect of your life,” Tess says. “One thing I learned that has helped in life is not putting too much pressure on yourself for anything. You must enjoy what you do, and putting too much pressure on yourself can take from that. You also cannot let one thing consume you so much.”
Tess’ current head coach in Matt Conyers explains that this indoor campaign, she has served as an anchor of support and steadiness to help Mercy move through choppy waters.
“It has always been clear that Tess possesses natural gifts as a runner, but this indoor season, it has been rewarding to watch her grow as a teammate and a competitor,” says Conyers. “Throughout this winter, our team has had to deal with various setbacks and surprises, but Tess’ overall commitment to the team and our goals has allowed us to continue to move forward as a unified group, and at the same time allowed her to tap into something new in her own running career. I’m incredibly proud of how she has found a way to be a constant for this group.”
He adds that he has also seen her mental growth by approaching every meet and event the same, no matter its magnitude.
“Ultimately, I think one of the most important aspects this season is how Tess is approaching every meet day,” says Conyers. “There is a level of focus, calmness, and purpose that I’ve seen with Tess on race days that has benefited her and allowed to chase the goals she’s wanted. Whether it was the Yale Classic, the SCC West Sectional meet, or the SCC Championship, she has approached each race with confidence and a clear drive. She has played a central role in allowing us to grow as a program and always compete in a way that we are proud of as a program.”
Tess is starting to plan out the starting blocks of her secondary education post graduation from Mercy. She admits at this phase of the chase, she is undecided on her desired field of occupation, but no matter what path she forges down, Tess wants to keep stacking personal victories.
“I want to go to college and just have a successful life, even though I am not sure what I want to do yet,” says Tess. “For now, I know I just want to maintain my focus on school and sports, and keep building up success.”