Freshman Brooke Cassar continues to break her own and UCA’s cross country record weekly.
After her victory at the 2013 Southland Conference Cross Country Championship, Cassar was named the SLC Female Cross Country Athlete of the Year and was awarded the Freshman of the Year title.
Cassar, who won the 6k course with a 12-second lead, is the second female athlete in UCA history to receive both awards.
“Accomplishing all that I have in my first season feels surreal, last year I honestly would have never imagined I’d be running this well right now,” she said. “I don’t know what I am more excited about, getting Southland Cross Country Athlete and Freshman of the Year or being selected to run at regionals, I was buzzing for days about both achievements.”
From Woonona, New South Wales, Australia, Cassar said she came to UCA because it gave her the opportunity to run and study simultaneously—something she’d never be able to do while in Australia. Cassar said that in Australia, academics and athletics are separated.
Being an international student, Cassar said time management is very important but that she’s glad she made the choice to study in America.
Cassar briefly came to America from 2000-2003, where she lived in Indiana. Her family followed her father Paul, who worked with NewCore Steel at the time, with his work.
“I used to hate running,” she said. “When I was 15 my parents had to pay me to run.”
When she was younger, Cassar said she was a bigger soccer fan and wasn’t interested in track or cross country.
“I’d love to do both,” she said. “Sometimes I watch [the women’s soccer team]play and I would love to be out there too.”
Knowing her coaches would never let her follow through in competing in a risky activity for fear she would injure herself, Cassar said she tried pole-vaulting over the summer and fell in love.
Cassar said her most memorable meet was the Vanderbelt XC at McNeese State in Lake Charles, La.
“I had low expectations going into the race and then raced really well,” she said.
Cassar came in second at the Vanderbelt XC and was immediately followed by teammate senior Erika Setzler.
Cassar and Setzler have motivated each other throughout the season, she said.
Setzler said Cassar is a great athlete and friend.
“Every race she walks up to the starting line hoping to do her best and she does that every time, never disappoints,” Setzler said. “She’s so humble about it all too, which is such a great characteristic. She has really helped to show how great our program is here at UCA.”
Cassar said Setzler helped influence Cassar to perform better each meet and during practice.
“She’s such good motivation, just her drive makes me want to try and do as much as she does,” Cassar said.
Setzler said the two have pushed each other all season and was glad she went on to regionals for her last season with Cassar.
“We’re not just great teammates, but she has become one of my best friends this last year,” she said.
Cassar said Assistant Coach John Jones has impacted her a lot over the season as well.
“Coach Jones knows that every athlete is different and he caters for this in his training and I think this has worked really well for the team.”