FW 2023 Michelle Pielak
Michelle Pielak
Girls Cross Country Coach 2023
Whether she was coaching cross country, basketball or track, Michelle Pielak’s request was always the same – give it your best. And that’s exactly what Pielak has done since the mid-1980s. For 37 years, she’s given it her best to the University Place School District. It was never a half-hearted effort. She was always committed. And that’s why she has earned the Frosty Westering Excellence in Coaching Award.
Pielak will retire from teaching at the end of this school year, but she continues to give everything she has, passing along the message she has all these years – hard work equals success.
“She is changing lives every single day,” said Suzanne Vick, Curtis High School’s athletic director. “She is passionate about her career and the impact she can make on her students and athletes.”
Pielak, who was born in Tacoma and graduated from Federal Way High School in 1980, has a rich background as an athlete. At Federal Way High School, she earned nine varsity letters in cross country, basketball and track. Pielak, whose maiden name is Ballentine, earned all-league and all-state honors.
After excelling in high school, Pielak received a two-year scholarship to Spokane Community College and ran cross country and track. Pielak then went on to run cross country and track at Eastern Washington University on a full scholarship and she earned her degree in teaching. From 1990 to 1992, she ran for Tacoma Dodge Racing.
After college, Pielak became a health and fitness teacher at Curtis and she coached track and field. “My greatest passion is cross country and in this time I worked with John Payne and it was an amazing experience,” she said.
Her coaching experience shifted around while raising her two kids. For several years, she focused on youth league basketball and softball teams. In 2010, she returned to Curtis and she’s coached there ever since.
As a coach, Pielak was been inspirational, helping her athletes get the most out of their talent. Sam Ring, a former coach who coached Pielak, applauds Pielak’s accomplishments as a coach. All three of Ring’s daughters were coached by Pielak.
“She is a gem,” Ring said.
Echoing Frosty Westering, Curtis AD Vick said: “She truly makes the big time where she is at. She supports all athletes in our Curtis High School programs and attends contests consistently. She demonstrates her values each and every day.”
For Pielak, seeing kids overcome and achieve is a reward
“These moments with kids impact them in ways incomprehensible at times, and makes me feel whole,” Pielak said. And it is the victories of overcoming that are her treasures. “The little victories to me are the big ones,” Pielak said. “Like a personal record, or a child who feels confident enough to run their first race.”
A recent treasured memory for Pielak came at the 2022 state 4A cross country meet in Pasco when Curtis junior Eliza White took second after training only five weeks due to an injury.
2023 Distinguished Achievement Award Recipients