Cassie Kearney has continued to stay the course. A three-time Independent School League MVP in girls’ cross-country at Thayer Academy, the Rockland resident has continued to flourish on the trails at Middlebury College.
Her coach at Thayer, Jeff Browne, called Kearney one of the most humble team-0riented athletes he had ever coached, but “with the heart of a tiger.” She was also a four-year point guard on the basketball team.
The Globe’s NEPSAC Athlete of the Year as a senior, Kearney earned All-American honors as a Middlebury freshman after legging out a top-40 finish at the NCAA Division 3 championships. That followed a fourth-place finish at the NESCAC championships before she placed eighth at the regionals.
On Oct. 5, Kearney was 14th overall in a field of 370 at the Paul Short Invitational in Bethlehem, Pa., completing the 6-kilometer course in 21 minutes, 30.8 seconds. She was the conference’s athlete of the week.
In between classes, and a training session, Kearney chatted with the Globe.
Is there extra motivation when you run in a meet at a Division 1 college [Lehigh]?
Yeah, definitely. I think the reason we did so well last Saturday is because we knew that competition would be there. When you start out the race there’s so many people in front of you. At first, you’re like, “Oh my gosh, what’s happening?’’ Being in that atmosphere makes you run so much faster and realize what you’re capable of doing.
I chose Middlebury because . . . my parents [Bob and Cindy] went to Bates, so we kind of had a NESCAC connection in the family. . . . Academically, I felt like it would be the perfect fit and I would be able to balance academics and athletics really well and have a social life outside the team. I also just love the location of the school, and it’s so much better than running around the suburbs.
Your favorite professional athlete?
I’d probably say Emma Coburn, the steeplechaser.
If you could have any super power, what would it be?
It would probably be to talk to animals. I just would love to be able to talk to dogs and cats. That or being able to fly.
What are your career goals?
I’m majoring in psychology and I am planning in minoring in Global Health and Spanish. I am not really sure what I want to do yet, but I am really interested in sports psychology.
What is on the playlist when you run?
We’ll warm up to music sometimes, then have the speaker to the side if we’re doing a workout. We do these hill repeats on Chipman Hill here. The first half of the cross country season it’s our work out when there are these 5-minute hill repeats . . . We’re really into dancing music. I feel like we like a lot of Lizzo songs.
What did it mean to you to be an All-American as a freshman?
For cross-country it was really special because going in I didn’t know what I would be capable of doing at all. I’d never run a 6k before, and in high school I was running basically alone the end of the year. It was so awesome to have competition. I loved seeing how much I could grow over the season and improve my times.
Toughest course you have ever run?
In high school, my senior year the ISL championship was at Lawrence Academy in Groton, and it was a total of 20 hills overall. . . . It was a few loops, and it was definitely the hardest course I’ve ever done. [Yes, she won.]
Any pre- or post-race rituals?
Pre-race, something that we do here is so fun — wearing flash tattoos. We all wear these glittery gold paw prints on our faces, this year we’ve put on gold sparkly eye liner and blue mascara. I’ve kind of started the tradition on my team that I did in high school. . . . I have a speaker you can hold on your hand and run with. We bring it to the starting line and it’s like a pre-run dance party.
Greg Levinsky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.