“My family is an athletic one,” stated Piotrek. That might be a slight understatement. Piotrek’s father represented Poland in the 1972 and 1976 Olympic Games, finishing fifth in the 1976 Montreal Olympics. He was also the first Pole to clear 18 feet in the pole vault, holding the Polish national record for many years. Piotrek’s mother was a PE teacher in Poland. His parents met at the Warsaw University of Physical Education and, along with his younger sister, still reside in Copenhagen today. Piotrek’s wife, Rachel, represented the United States at the 2012 London Olympic Games in the javelin throw. “She has by far the strongest and fastest arm in the family,” quipped Piotrek.
Sports were central to Piotrek’s upbringing. In school, soccer was the one thing he had in common with his international classmates. So much so that some of the first English words he learned were “pass,” “I’m open” and “goal!” It wasn’t until he was 15 that he began to follow in his father’s footsteps by signing up for track and field and taking pole vaulting more seriously. Piotrek’s father served as his coach up until he was offered an athletic scholarship at the University of Oregon.
In 1996, Piotrek left the University of Copenhagen where he was studying economics and transferred to UO where he would eventually obtain his BS in Economics and an MBA in Sports Marketing. While Piotrek was busy earning his education, he was also racking up wins on the field. He won the PAC 10 Championship two times and earned All-American honors three times. His top achievement while still in college was a third-place finish at the NCAA Championships. Representing Denmark, Piotrek would later compete at two World Indoor Championships (Birmingham and Budapest), three World Outdoor Championships (Edmonton Paris and Helsinki) and the 2004 Athens Olympic Games.
Piotrek’s first career after pole vaulting was in business development for a medical imaging clinic in Eugene. He worked there while also competing in the Olympics. “I enjoyed receiving emails of support from my work colleagues and coming back to the office afterwards,” stated Piotrek. “As payback for my prolonged absence, I had to give three presentations during our lunch hours, showing pictures and telling behind the scenes stories from the Olympics. It was a lot of fun.”
Piotrek then went on to become a part owner of one of the largest track and field athlete management agencies. During his seven-year stint as a sport agent, Piotrek represented many Olympic medalists, including Ashton Eaton who holds the world record in both the decathlon and indoor heptathlon events. Seeking more geographic stability, Piotrek took a position at TrackTown USA in 2015 as the senior director of marketing and sales. In this role, he was able to take advantage of his international connections to help secure sponsorships with large corporations such as Uber, Budweiser and Comcast. He also developed good relationships locally with small businesses and generous individuals in Portland and Eugene. This, along with his athletic career, has provided Piotrek skills that lend well to his current role as vice president of corporate business development at Summit Bank.
“In athletics, and especially in pole vaulting, you learn that success and victory don’t come without years of disciplined training and sacrifices,” stated Piotrek. “I think that helps in business development, as it often takes dozens of calls and many meetings that don’t necessarily lead anywhere before you land one or two clients. I’m also very comfortable walking into a meeting with people who I have never met or picking up the phone to call someone I don’t know, which I often credit to years of performing in national and international events.”
According to Summit Bank CEO Craig Wanichek, hiring Piotrek was a bit unconventional. Piotrek thinks Craig is probably right, but he also believes it was a natural fit. “I always had an interest in the financial services sector, and if track and field hadn’t hijacked my professional career, I would have been working in the banking industry a lot sooner. When I saw an opportunity to take the experience, knowledge and connections I had gained from my earlier places of employment and apply that to banking, I seized it. I arranged a meeting with Craig and sold him on hiring a pole vaulter to be a banker at Summit Bank.”
In addition to dreaming of being a soccer player growing up, Piotrek wanted to be a pilot. Fast forward to today, and he not only plays on Summit Bank’s coed soccer team, but he’s also logged 600 flight hours. “It was always a childhood dream of mine and a nightmare for my parents,” stated Piotrek. Oddly enough, at the age of eight, Piotrek was told that he was color blind and therefore could not fly. After his track and field career, Piotrek researched flying a little further and found out that he could be a color-blind pilot in the U.S. so long as he only flew during the day. “That was good enough for me,” stated Piotrek, “so I found an instructor, scheduled my medical exam and found out that I was never color blind to begin with.” Piotrek now owns a four seat Mooney (M20E for other pilot bankers out there) and flies on nice weekends with his family when he can “talk them into it.”
Piotrek and his wife are parents to two energetic children. Maya is four years old and a lead singer and performer at her Montessori school. Maks is two and likes to hang with his mom. “We often get asked if they will follow in their parents’ footsteps,” stated Piotrek. “I think that Rachel and I will be just as proud of them if they grow up to be respected artists, scholars or community members. We’ll let their passions guide their careers.”