Junior Olympian Peterson-Gurak ’24, Now an Arcadia Knight

By Caitlin Burns | October 14, 2020

By Katherine Haines ’21

As a Junior Olympian, first-year Bachelor of Fine Arts student Cheyenne Peterson-Gurak ’24 has learned a couple of life lessons: the importance of staying true to herself and persevering through failure. 

Peterson-Gurak began competing in the Junior Olympics program in sixth grade and continued on throughout her middle school and early high school years. She remembers how her first meet in the track and field competition for both the hurdles and long jump was painful: her long jump she missed by an inch to qualify for regionals, followed by a fall near the finish line of the hurdles that also cost her regionals. 

“[That experience] pushed me to excel further, and the next year, I ended up qualifying with the [4 by 100 meter relay] and long jump, and we made it to the championships,” said Peterson-Gurak. 

Before the Junior Olympics, Peterson-Gurak played soccer, but her mom noticed her running constantly and decided she should try something that allowed her to run more. Track and field ended up being her passion. To Peterson-Gurak, running is “a way to relax and kind of calm my thoughts. So, it was a huge part and still is a huge part” of why she enjoys the sport so much.

The Junior Olympics is for young athletes to compete and “get a taste” of what the professional Olympics would be like, as they compete against athletes in their age groups from all around the United States. However, when Peterson started high school she transitioned more into her high school sports teams.

“Junior Olympics was definitely an experience and it taught me to get back up even though you failed, to just keep being you, and to keep pushing your limits,” said Peterson-Gurak. “I wanted to find my own thing and that [sports] was something I excelled at naturally and I just kept working to better myself.”

Now that Peterson-Gurak has started at Arcadia, she has been recruited to compete on the track and field team. Indoor track and field had players advance to the Middle Atlantic Conference during postseason in February, while outdoor track and field had its inaugural season canceled due to Covid-19. 

“I felt the competition level and the connection between the coaches and athletes stronger than anywhere else,” said Peterson-Gurak. “I did visit Division I and II schools, but I just never felt that coach connection like I do at Arcadia.”