Baby got track!


Luka Vaicekauskas

Penny Markowski, #55, running at the Babe Zaharias Golf Course on August 27, 2021. Penny finished with a time of 20:47.50 for the 5K race.

Running is not a sport for everyone. No timeouts, required discipline, Florida’s humidity, and a constant race against time are just some of the factors the runners face daily. Such too is the daily routine for Penny Markowski, a senior at Plant High School and a runner since middle school.   

But before running, Penny had other aspirations; she did lacrosse, soccer, and tennis. However, her family inspired her to push herself beyond and join this intense sport.   

“My family was really big on running; my brother ran at Plant, and my dad ran marathons, so I kind of started to try it too,” Penny said. “It’s kind of a family thing. My dad wanted to form the Bayshore Project, which is a middle school running club in Tampa, and that just really sparked more of a passion for me.”

The Bayshore Project is part of the South Tampa Youth Running Club. It provides training for boys and girls grades 5-8, with the mission of presenting new runners to the idea of running competitively in high school and introducing them to the sport.

“The best part about being in the Cross-Country Team at Plant is the family that forms, and the people you draw connections with. Cross-country is the home of some of the nicest and most encouraging people I have ever met in my life,” Penny said. “When it’s offseason, I feel like “what am I going to do now?”’

But running is not only about a good pair of sneakers- Cross Country and Track established Markowski’s key memories and lessons.

“Running taught me how important it is to have a team, plus caring about them, how much being part of a second family means to me, and how rewarding it is to give your 100% to everything,” Penny said. “The friendships that this sport brought me, and the amount of reward that I felt by working hard and pushing myself in all the races given me made me realize that even though running is exhausting, and it takes up a lot of time, it just showed me that there are so many more fulfilling things around running than there are downsides.”


However, Penny is a Varsity long-distance runner, the co-captain of the H.B. Plant Cross Country Team, and a figure many admire for her achievements in this field.

“My 5k PR is 19:42,” Penny said, which was during the FHSAA 4A District 3 meet at the Rogers Park Golf Course. “However, I do prefer short distance running. I love racing the 800 m; that’s my favorite race. I love Cross-country, but Track & Field is my favorite thing,”

But how did Penny reach the top at H.B. Plant, the district, and the FL MileSplit scoreboards? Her answer was simple- discipline.

“To become a successful, elite runner, one needs to keep itself motivated through and focusing on the good; not focusing on what hurts, not focusing on how tired you are, or how much you have to do. Just taking every race, every practice once at a time, and then focusing on reminding yourself of all the reasons why you love this sport, reminding yourself of all the friendships that you made and reminding yourself why you are passionate about what you are doing, even though it might be a time where you may be not.”

This is Penny’s last year at Plant, and with the dream schools of University of Miami and Notre Dame, she aspires to study nutrition and dietetics. But also, not leaving running behind.

“After high school, I plan on going to college, and if I don’t run competitively, which I’m probably not going to, I am definitely going to run on a club team and just keep running for the rest of my life,” Penny said.

For Penny, running is not only about the medals or the miles accomplished- she values the friendships this sport granted her and all the ways it allowed them to grow.

“A team is a family that expands your blood family,” Penny said.   


 To learn more about The Bayshore Project:

H.B. Plant Girls Cross Country: