In the last race of the day at the 2022 NESCAC Championship meet, a 4x800 relay, Middlebury and Tufts were just points away from each other in the standings.
Cassie Kearney ’22, the anchor of the relay, got the baton in third, six seconds behind the runner from Tufts. But at the very end of the race, Kearney caught up to the Tufts runner, beating her by a second and a half to secure the NESCAC title for the women’s team for the first time in 22 years.
“At that point, we knew we had won for sure, so it was such a fun finish,” Kearney said.
Kearney is, according to cross country coach Nicole Wilkerson, “one of the fastest runners we’ve ever had at Middlebury.” In addition to her title-clinching performance in the relay, Kearney ran and won two other races: the 1500 and 800-meter. In both, she also established new NESCAC Championship meet records, at 4:26.64 and 2:09.51, respectively.
“That’s pretty amazing for one person to do in one meet. Our conference is historically really strong in the mid-distances. So for her to break two [records] in one meet is just a sign of how talented she is,” Wilkerson said.
Both Kearney and Wilkerson attributed the team’s success to the energy of the day, where the whole team, even those not competing, showed up to the meet to cheer on the runners.
“I can’t describe the feeling of running around and seeing our whole team lining the track,” Kearney said. “People performed so well because there was so much excitement and so little stress.”
NESCACs weren’t the end of Kearney’s Middlebury running career. In the weeks since, she has competed in the Division III New England Championship, where she helped set the Middlebury record in the 4x400 relay. Next weekend, she’ll compete at the Open New England Meet in Rhode Island, and then she’ll compete in Nationals in Ohio at the end of the semester.
After graduation, Kearney will continue her NCAA eligibility for a year at The University of Michigan, where she’ll be getting a Master of Public Health in Health Behavior and Health Education. Kearney said that she is excited for the new environment and intensity of competing on a Division-I team.
“I’ll definitely be sad to leave here, a lot, but I’m definitely ready for new beginnings,” she said.
On the Middlebury team, Kearney will be missed. “She's just a gem of an athlete to get to coach,” Wilkerson said.
Riley Board '22 is the Editor in Chief of The Campus. She previously served as a Managing Editor, News Editor, Arts & Academics Editor and writer.
She is majoring in Linguistics as an Independent Scholar and is an English minor on the Creative Writing Track.
Board has worked as a writer at Smithsonian Folklife Magazine and as a reporter for The Burlington Free Press. Currently, she is a 2021-2022 Kellogg Fellow working on her linguistics thesis. In her free time, you can find her roller skating in E-Lot or watching the same sitcoms over and over again.