Last year, an injury during the indoor track and field season cut Cassandra Laios’ senior season short. But Laios, a thrower on the Case Western Reserve University women’s track and field team, was determined to end her athletic career on her own terms.

So, she returned to Case Western Reserve for a fifth year to complete a Master of Engineering and Management degree, which also gave her the chance to compete in track and field one more year.

Throughout last summer and fall, she worked diligently to return to her pre-injury performance level.

And last weekend, all of that paid off when Laios won the national championship title for hammer throw at the 2019 NCAA Division III Women’s Outdoor Track and Field Championship at the SPIRE Institute in Geneva, Ohio. Seeded second in the competition, she threw for a mark of 56.34 meters on her second of six attempts. The distance was both a personal best and set a new school record, surpassing Laios’ previous school record distance of 55.96 meters.

The national title put Laios in elite company, becoming Case Western Reserve’s 15th NCAA champion. Prior to Laios, the most recent national champions were men’s tennis players Eric Klawitter and C.J. Krimbill, who won the NCAA Doubles Championship in 2014.

Laios also finished seventh place in discus at the meet a few days prior to the hammer throw.

Additionally, Laios recently was named to the Google Cloud Academic All-District Women’s Track and Field/Cross Country Team and University Athletic Association Athlete of the Week for women’s field events. At Case Western Reserve, she received this year’s Bill Sudeck Outstanding Student-Athlete Award.

Path to the title

Already a competitive swimmer, Laios first competed in track and field as a seventh-grader. She started with the shot put and picked up the discus in eighth grade. Originally from Worthington, Ohio, Laios didn’t touch the hammer throw until college, as the state of Ohio doesn’t include the event at the high school level.

During Laios’ first two years at Case Western Reserve, she balanced her time between both the women’s swimming and diving and track and field teams. But, after injuries derailed her swimming career, Laios decided to dedicate her time to throwing.

“That was a big decision in my life and, as hard as it was, I’m kind of glad I made it,” she said. “I don’t think I’d be able to accomplish what I have if I didn’t have a focus on just one sport.”

The choice also gave her more time to bond with her teammates, which became her favorite aspect of the sport.

Looking ahead

The title comes on the heels of Laios earning her master’s degree, which happened at commencement less than a week earlier.

“It was kind of nice how it all tied up at the same time—to be able to have all of that happen,” Laios said. “Now I get to go focus on what the future holds.”

That begins next month, when she starts a job as an electrical engineer at Lockheed Martin in New York.

“It should be fun,” Laios said. “There are a lot of opportunities to learn there because it’s such a big company.”

Read more about Laios’ championship victory, but before you do, check out Laios’ answers to this week’s five questions.   

1. What new hobby would you pursue if you had more time?

I really enjoyed the brief times I got to go outside and go hiking. There were a couple of times over the summer when I was [a student] that I went down to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and took a walk out in the woods. It’s a nice thing to be able to do—to be able to explore what the world looks like around me, especially the natural world. It’s very calming to be out there, especially when there’s a bunch of different stresses in life.

2. Where is your favorite spot on or near campus to work, read or study?

I usually studied in my dorm room or apartment. But if I had the time, or if I didn’t have time to go back to my apartment and it was really nice outside, I would usually find a table on the quad and study out there.

3. What new place would you most like to travel?

I want to go to all seven continents, though I don’t know if I’ll ever get to Antarctica. But the next one on my list is South America. I really want to [visit] the rain forest to see the diversity of wildlife. There are so many differences there and, unfortunately, it keeps being destroyed by humans.

4. If you could learn another language, what would you choose?

This one is up for debate between Chinese and Greek because of my family background. It would be really nice to have learned either of those languages to be able to speak to my grandparents or other family members who are much better speaking either Chinese or Greek so I could learn more about family history and what they have experienced in their lifetime.

5. What’s your favorite thing about Case Western Reserve?

One of my favorite things about CWRU is the opportunities I’ve had here. I was on the swim team, and then I came over to track. I think if went to any other school, I would not have been able to pursue both, let alone even try to do track.

I’m very glad I was able to come here and to pursue the degrees I have. I probably would not have gotten into electrical engineering so much if I wasn’t here and didn’t have the ease of choosing my major [out of any in the university], instead of an application [to a specific program] like some of the other schools I applied to.