Many students come to college hoping to achieve something that they can be proud of for years to come. Men’s cross country and track and field freshman distance runner Isaac Garcia-Cassani has embraced this mentality, racking up an impressive number of athletic accolades in his short time at Geneseo. His most recent––and perhaps most remarkable––feat was placing third in an All-American event with a mile time just over four minutes at the NCAA Division III 2015 Indoor Track & Field Championships in Winston-Salem, North Carolina on March 14. Among other career highlights, he placed 12th at the 2014 SUNYAC Cross Country Championship meet. For Garcia-Cassani, commitment is key to his running success.
“Long distance running requires a lot of perseverance as well as a lot of dedication,” he said. “If you’re not fully into it, then you might as well quit and go do something else. It’s taught me a lot of discipline to stay focused and to stay at it.”
Garcia-Cassani explained that he discovered his passion for cross country and track unintentionally. He began training to make his high school’s varsity soccer team after initially being cut and discovered a natural talent and enjoyment in running. “I kind of had a knack for it,” he said. After he made the soccer team the next season, he quit to pursue cross country.
He received numerous honors in his high school running career—from being named Academic All-County for cross country, indoor and outdoor track, to being selected to the 2014 State Championship teams and holding the record for fastest mile in indoor and outdoor track for Sachem North High School in Holbrook, New York. Garcia-Cassani noted that his high school coach––a Geneseo alum––played a large role in helping him prepare for athletics at Geneseo.
“He took the intensity off just a bit,” he said. “When I came to college, it was a great transition because I had already done half the things they were doing.”
Garcia-Cassani explained that while he came to Geneseo primarily for its academic reputation, he was also drawn in largely by the camaraderie on the men’s cross country and track teams. “I visited a lot of teams … all the schools were good, but no school had quite as much of a familial presence in the team as Geneseo,” he said. “Everybody sticks together, everybody has each other’s back.”
Garcia-Cassani continued to stress the crucial role that his teammates and coaches play in his success. “If I didn’t have the support of my coach and all my teammates, I wouldn’t have made it far at all,” he said. “At some points I’ve just wanted to stop, but my coaches [Mike Woods and Chris Popovici] and my teammates are the guys who convince me to keep going.”
While he acknowledged that it can be stressful to maintain a successful academic and athletic career, Garcia-Cassani emphasized that his love of running overshadows the stress. “For most people, it’s not worth it … but the satisfaction that I get from competing and doing well is better than getting any good grade on a test,” he said. “It’s the best feeling; it’s truly euphoric.”
After graduation, the physics major hopes to enter graduate school to pursue a career in engineering. As demonstrated in his athletic record, Garcia-Cassani’s determination and work ethic can certainly take him to great places.