Sophomore Christy Cazzola strives for success as both athlete and mother
Published: Thursday, November 11, 2010
Updated: Thursday, November 11, 2010 03:11
Sophomore Christy Cazzola won the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference individual cross-country championship this Saturday by 15 seconds, but this title was three years in the making for the UW Oshkosh standout.
Cazzola notched a ninth-place finish in the Midwest regional her freshman year, and is looking to improve on that finish this year when she competes in the same event on Nov. 13th. It has been a long, difficult journey since that ninth-place finish in her 2008 freshman campaign, though.
Cazzola did not run in her second year of college, as she was pregnant with her now 16-month-old daughter, Kaya. Not only did she miss a year of running and a year of experience, but she also faced the challenge of getting back into running shape while managing a family, as she also has a four-year-old son, Noah.
The cross-country star has a fierce competitive drive that has assisted her on and off the course. Her off-season training ranged from distance runs to speed work and weight training as she tried to get back into running form, both physically and mentally, while still taking care of two children.
"It was extremely difficult. It was a lot harder for me to get into that cardiovascular shape I was used to," she said about the off-season training.
It was a gradual process for Cazzola.
She began getting back into the physical condition she needed to be in by running a few days per week and even competing independently in a few track events in the spring of 2009.
When summer rolled around, though, she took the intensity up a notch and began running and training daily.
Most of her training took place at Ghost Town Fitness in Kaukauna, to which she attributes a lot of her success.
"They are pretty much the reason I got to where I am," Cazzola said.
The facility offers a play area for children, where Cazzola was able to let her two children play and then get her training in. She continues to pay the monthly fee for the facility, as she stressed they have given her way more than what her membership requires.
She modestly notes that off-season training is difficult for anyone, as she discussed the impact her teammates have on her.
"It can be challenging for anyone," Cazzola said. "I don't want to discredit my teammates. It takes so much dedication. Some of my teammates are working three jobs and being active citizens, and they are still doing it."
Cazzola looks to her teammates for inspiration and motivation throughout the season as she relates her own hardships to theirs.
"Everyone is going through their own struggles, and affecting you in different ways," she said.
As a freshman, Cazzola looked to then junior Ayla Mitchell, who was a two-time Midwest regional champion herself.
"She was a great athlete and a great person, and someone that pushed me. She is a really good person to have in your life," Cazzola said of Mitchell.
Now that Cazzola is in the role Ayla Mitchell was in, she feels she is in much more control of her workouts. She does not have to control her speed based off of another runner and she is able to establish her own pace, as she is the pace setter in practices.
Not only does Cazzola manage to be a mother and a cross-country star, she is also working towards her education major, which in itself is a challenge for anyone. She has a social science emphasis and wants to teach history and political science while also looking to achieve a minor in economics
Cazzola is well aware of her competitive drive as she discussed how it motivates her in the classroom, in her training and most of all, in races.
"I love to race," she said. I love to compete. My coach likes to tell me I like to be in pain, I like to hurt."
Cazzola is beginning to look ahead to the Division III Midwest Regional Championship, which is coming up Nov. 13th.
With two weeks off from meets, Cazzola puts faith in coach Deb Vercauteren as she has her entire collegiate career.
"I'm gonna do whatever Coach tells me to do," Cazzola said. "I trust her in my training. She has brought me this far."
She attributed her WIAC individual title to her mental preparation, which she stressed can either be her greatest strength or greatest weakness.
"Deb prepares our bodies for the race," Cazzola said. "Its what you do in your mind that makes the difference. Conference was the smartest race I've run all season, and that's why I won."
Cazzola has proved over and over that her drive and hard work has given her a competitive edge in running and in life.
She has proved she can overcome physical barriers as well as mental obstacles on and away from the cross-country course. With responsibilities that differ from the common college student, Cazzola personifies the term student-athlete as she continues her success in running and in life.