Summer Gelman and Elle Casselman are the only two members of Cuesta’s Women’s Cross-Country team, and have both qualified for the 2023 Western State Conference First Team.
Gelman, a freshman runner for the program, explained how anyone can get into running if they just start.
“Everyone starts somewhere and all you need to be able to do is put one foot in front of the other,” Gelman said. “It doesn’t matter how fast or how much, just enjoy the ride.”
Every team member has a different goal in mind when it comes to running, so practice varies depending on the athlete. Gelman said a typical cross-country practice begins with a dynamic warm-up and then switches to a maintenance run ranging from four to six miles. Gelman called these conditioning days “work days” where twice a week the program’s athletes push their limits and have timed runs aiming to have a pace similar to race day.
Gelman was previously a soccer player who switched to cross country a little over a year ago and found a new form of enjoyment.
“It is definitely an outlet for me, to be the best version of myself mentally and physically,” Gelman said.
A typical week of training for Gelman includes running an average of 40 miles a week.
Gelman explained how she never saw herself running cross-country, but in doing so she has found a tremendous passion that brings her an immense amount of joy. She plans to stay determined after this season and can see herself continuing her running career after Cuesta.
Like Gelman, Casselman found her start in running not at a cross country meet, but rather on the soccer field. Casselman began running at a young age, and once she made the switch to competitive running in seventh grade, she knew she found her passion.
“Running became a metaphor for pushing against life’s challenges; the more you sweat and push yourself, the more you gain,” Casselman said. “No one does the running but you. And all of the voices on the outside, both those that cheer you on and those that hold you back, are all just that—on the outside.”
Casselman was able to find an escape from her mental health struggles when she put on her shoes and ran as far and fast as she could until those struggles were behind her, finding liberation in her run.
“Where do you go when it hurts?” said Casselman, referencing a mantra she tells herself during her races and runs. “Finding peace in the discomfort, learning to overcome the physical barriers.”
Casselman was originally a student at the University of Colorado Boulder but wasn’t competing in their athletic program. She tried the Greek system, and attempted to join a triathlon team, but soon realized the Rocky Mountains wasn’t the place for her.
“I was telling everyone that I could’ve been a D1 runner,” Casselman said. “I hated that narrative and decided that I was not going to live a life of, ‘Could haves or should haves,’ but that I tried and gave it my all. I transferred to Cuesta second semester last year to begin my collegiate running career.”
Casselman explained a race day as preparing for an internal battle, and is a week-long process. It starts with an early morning shakeout run fueled by a hearty breakfast, a two-mile warm-up, and dynamic stretches before getting ready to start the race.
“I came in with no expectations other than to give it my honest effort, knowing I did everything in my power to come into this race prepared; and I was happily surprised by the outcome,” said Casselman, when asked about what it was like to compete recently at Los Angeles’ Pierce College.
Casselman finds running to be a perfect combination of her interests, where she is able to combine her love of music with her love of running.
“I am always listening to music, I blend my two passions together when I run,” Casselman said. “I love finding good EDM songs that make you feel like you are in a euphoric state when you are running,”
Along with qualifying for the Western Conference first team, Gelman and Casselman both qualified for the 2023 Southern California Regional Championships, and plan to participate in the 2023 CCCAA State Championships.