MORGANTOWN — It was a long and winding journey from Werribee, Victoria, Australia, to College Station, Texas, for WVU senior Amy Cashin.
But as soon as she arrived, she knew it was where she was meant to end up.
“It was a huge honor to be there. Unlike steeple-chase last year, I went in with the mind set that I belonged and could make the final,” Cashin said. “After the heat when I found out I made the final, it was exciting to be able to say I was a national finalist.”
It was Cashin’s first appearance at the NCAA indoor track and field championships, and she was competing in the mile run against some of the elite mid-distance runners in the nation. Cashin advanced to the finals, turning in a ninth-place performance with a 4:43.
While she failed to earn a spot on the podium and didn’t match her season best (4:36), which was the top mark in the Big 12, coach Sean Cleary said when put into perspective, her placing is astronomically impressive.
“Championship racing is tactical. While time is a great way to determine success in our sport, I think placing is better,” he said. “At the beginning of winter, there were thousands and thousands of women running the mile and it was narrowed down to 10 for the final. Fortunately, Amy was strong enough that weekend to qualify, but unfortunately that day, eight girls were better.”
“I gave it everything I could, and I was against some phenomenal girls,” Cashin said of the performance. “I hope I did West Virginia proud.”
It wasn’t Cashin’s first experience with NCAA success. She ran a school record 10:01 in the 3,000 meter steeplechase at the 2017 NCAA outdoor East preliminary meet, good for a sixth-place finish and a trip to the NCAA championships, where she finished 19th.
“With the steeple, it was an event we had been working toward. We started it off a bit rocky, but we got the time to get to regionals and we performed well at the Big 12 championship,” Cashin said. “I ran the race at regionals, and it was arguably one of my best ones ever.
“I was very tactical, and I just felt good, and luckily it was enough to qualify me for the NCAA finals at Eugene (Ore.). Eugene is track nation; it’s got so much prestige. Qualifying was great.”
Even more impressive was the fact that she qualified bouncing back from an injury sustained during cross-country season, which forced her out of indoor season for her junior campaign.
“Coming back, Amy was not in good shape; she was not in a good place,” Cleary said. “So we did something with Amy last outdoor season that was risky, and we spent the entire start of the middle season, where most runners begin to back off, and we probably trained her harder in the month of April than we’ve ever done.”
Such training runs the risk of poor performances, injury and lack of mental focus, but the gamble paid dividends as Cashin hit the postseason in full stride.
The success is quite humbling for Cashin, but she feels happy to see her work pay off.
“It means a lot because I’ve been running for a long time. I have a love, a passion for it. It’s nice to be able to do something you love and see success from it,” Cashin said.
“Sean and I have been working for five years now, and I’ve put a lot of time in it. To see all the time I’ve taken to do my rehab and my stretches pay off is wonderful, and I’m proud and honored.”
In addition to her efforts on the track, Cashin is president of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, graduated with a four-year degree and is now pursuing a master’s. Cashin was twice named to the Big 12 all-academic team with a 4.0, and earned the 2017 Order of Augusta Award, WVU’s most prestigious student honor.
“She’s not your stereotypical ‘all-in, all-obsessed’ attitude with athletics,” Cleary said. “Her value extends far beyond athletics. She embodies the statement of what the NCAA wants.”
According to Cleary, Cashin’s success both on and off the track set an invaluable standard for WVU track and field.
“It’s amazing. Just to have these young kids come in and see someone standing on the starting line for an NCAA final,” Cleary said. “If you look at the statistics of all the athletes that start the season and those that make the final, the lowest percentage of participation is in indoor track.”
In the future, Cashin hopes to chase the Australian national track and field, cross-country, and Olympic teams, but first she has one major task to tackle: Her final season of outdoor track at WVU.
“Definitely we’re going to be targeting the steeplechase again,” Cashin said. “I expect to be a qualifier this year.”
Cashin is confident headed in, because there is one difference in her mind this season as opposed to last season: She now knows what she’s capable of doing.
“It was a hope last year, it’s an expectation this year,” Cashin said of qualifying for the NCAA outdoor championship. “I want to be in that national final and prove that I deserve to be there.”