Race-day Fridays have a certain ritual for senior Stephanie Case. Wake up, eat a quick breakfast, go to class, fit in a quick lunch, finish class around 5 p.m., and rush to get to the course in time for the race, all while the anxiety and queasy stomach follow her around throughout the duration of the day.
“No matter how big or small the meet is, I always get nervous.” Case said.
Case is arguably one of the most recognized athletes in all of Division II Women’s cross-country and track. She is a four-time Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference qualifier and last season’s PSAC 10,000 meter champion. Last week, she was named PSAC Women’s Cross Country Athlete of the Week.
Case, from Columbiana, Ohio, first attended and ran at the University of Miami in Ohio before transferring to Slippery Rock after one year.
“SRU just seemed like a better fit for my personality,” Case said.
Case was a walk on athlete for the cross country and track programs here at Slippery Rock and since then, it seems like she hasn’t stopped running.
Senior Stephanie Clark has not only been a teammate of Case’s but also a close friend for the entirety of their respective running careers.
“She is an amazing athlete and works very hard, but she always finds the time to check up on everyone else,” Clark said. “We all look to her for advice and motivation prior to the start of the race.”
Outside of spending her time running, Case is a biology major who enjoys swimming, putting salt on everything, outdoor activities, and is an avid rock climber.
“Originally I only ran to stay in shape for swimming, because I always wanted to swim in college. In high-school, running took over that dream and now here I am today,” Case said.
But running wasn’t always Case’s forte; in fact, her career was almost over before it even started.
“My first day of practice in seventh grade I cried the whole way home and every day after practice because I hated it so much, Case said. “My coach from middle school was there to reassure me and was still there for me through high school as well. He was always there encouraging me to go on and to be better.”
During her three years of participation with the Slippery Rock cross country and track teams, head coach John Papa has guided and motivated her to excel.
“Coach Papa has always been there for me and is always pushing me to be better each day,” Case said. “He has believed in me and helped me accomplish things I didn’t believe I could do.”
Running doesn’t come naturally and it takes perseverance through the pain and consumption of seemingly all of your energy, which Case knows first hand.
“If anyone approached me and said they were interested in beginning a cross country career, I would tell them it’s going to be really hard at first, even just to run a couple of miles,” Case said. “But cross country is all about repetition, repetition and repetition. You’ll get used to it and running becomes a lot easier.”
With this year being Case’s last year of school, her post-collegiate future is waiting just around the corner. Along with applying to several physician assistant schools, Case intends on completing a marathon as well as an Iron-Man triathlon.
“Looking back on my career, I have some unfinished business,” Case said. “I came really close to making nationals in both track seasons, as well as cross country last year. I would really like to qualify for nationals this year in every sport.”
During cross country season, Case finished 12th at the Regional Championship last year just missing qualifying for the NCAA Division II Nationals by six seconds.
When Case isn’t focusing on a race on the weekend, it’s all about spending a few days kicking back and relaxing.
“Next to running, being lazy is my favorite activity.” Case said.
Case is a firm believer in that if you want something bad enough, you can have it.
“I have a lot of heart, and in those tough races that is what it comes down to,” Case said. “Whoever wants it the most is going to win.”
With two more guaranteed meets in Case’s cross country season, it’s time for her to go out and leave it all on the course. The SRU Invitational will be held tomorrow and the PSAC Championships will be on October 20.
“When I think of cross country, the first things that come to mind are: pain, mud and sweat. There is no feeling better than the one following a really hard race or a really hard workout, that makes it all worth it.” Case said.
Case has definitely left her mark on the Slippery Rock women’s cross-country and track team both through her consistently fantastic performance on the course, as well as her humble attitude amongst her teammates. Cross-country has never been a sport that is highly glorified in the media or put above many other sports in a spotlight, but athletes like Stephanie Case help make the sport exciting to watch.