For the past four years, senior Casey McDermott has been the foundation of the Drake women’s cross-country team. The psychology major from Newton, Iowa, is everything a school could ask for in a student athlete: intelligent, well-spoken, a fierce competitor and a contender for the top spot every time she sets foot upon a course. But a few years ago McDermott was close to not becoming a collegiate cross-country runner at all.
McDermott is what one would call a born athlete. A three-sport athlete at Newton High School, McDermott has been involved in sports most of her life. Running was the one activity she showed the most interest for since a young age.
“When I was really little I used to ask my parents and people come outside and watch me run,” she said. “I’d just run laps around the yard.”
Those laps must have paid off, because in high school, McDermott not only excelled in cross-country and track, but basketball and softball as well. Running and basketball was where she truly excelled, as she was a three-time all-league and second team all-state selection for hoops. In cross-country, she qualified for the Class 4A state meet every year of high school.
“In high school, I knew that I wanted to play some sport at the college level,” she said. “I wasn’t sure what it was going to be in high school; it was hard to choose.”
McDermott was receiving offers from schools to play basketball even when she made her first visit to Drake. She was drawn to Drake by the small school environment in and outside of the classroom.
“I really liked Drake where it was a smaller school and competed at a [Division I] level,” she said.
Once on campus, McDermott met with cross-country and track distance coach Daniel Hostager. After meeting with the team and coaching staff, the same community feel that brought her to Drake for academics caught her attention for athletics.
“[Coach Hostager’s] athletes that talked to me seemed to like his coaching style, and he was always very honest with me,” McDermott said. “He is also a person who puts academics before athletics and encourages a strong team, family-like environment.”
Arriving on campus in August 2007, McDermott became an immediate threat in the Missouri Valley Conference in both cross-country and track and field. In her freshman year, McDermott placed fourth at the Bulldog Classic and in the top 100 runners at the NCAA Midwest Regional.
The most impressive fact about McDermott is that she improved her times and placements every year spent at Drake. The last two seasons, McDermott won the Bulldog Classic and placed as high as 32nd in the NCAA Midwest Regional. This year she set her personal best in the 6,000-meter with a time of 21 minutes, 16 seconds, finishing as runner-up at the Bradley Classic.
McDermott has shown academic excellence throughout her years at Drake, and was recognized as a U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Division I Track & Field All-Academic honoree. McDermott cites Hostager’s coaching for her athletic and academic success.
“[Coach Hostager] personalizes the workouts to each individual to fit their needs, which was something I felt confidence in when I came to Drake,” McDermott said. “I’m very thankful for the coaching I’ve received at Drake.”
Not only is McDermott valued for her running, but for her leadership on the cross-country and track teams. On a team of young runners, McDermott was the one to step up, lead by example and constantly foster the team-first environment that brought her to Drake.
“I had to redshirt this season, but she was still constantly checking in to see how I was feeling and what progress I was making,” sophomore runner London James said. “Even when I would text her asking how she did at meets, she never responded with how she did personally, but instead tells me what the team placed as a whole.”
McDermott still has one season left of track,and is looking to continue improving her times. Next May she will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and will look to go to graduate school for school counseling.
“I’d like to be a coach somewhere as well,” she said. “Become a graduate assistant for a track and cross-country program somewhere.”
With the track season starting in late December, McDermott will take a short reprieve from the intense training, but will start back up soon.
With all the experiences, McDermott finds it difficult to pick a favorite season.
“I love track and cross-country for different reasons,” she said with a smile.
A look into the career of Casey McDermott
- All-MVC two years in a row (ninth in 2009,10th in 2010)
- Placed 57th in NCAA Midwest Regional last Saturday
- Placed 32nd in the same meet in 2009
- Named to the MVC Cross-Country Scholar-Athlete team in 2009 and 2010
- Finished second in 2008 Bulldog Classic as a sophomore
Track and Field
- Qualified for the NCAA West Regional for the 1500-meter run in the spring of 2010
- Ran a personal best 4:57.74 in the mile to finish fifth at the MVC Indoor Championships in 2009
- Also ran a personal best 9:47.50 in the 3000-meter to also finish fifth in the same meet
- Set school record for 3000-meter steeplechase with a time of 10:44.48 at the Drake Relays to qualify for an NCAA Regional.
- The previous steeplechase record was held by…guess who? McDermott, who finished third in the event at the MVC Championship in 2008 with a time of 11:02.81
- Named to MVC Track and Field Scholar-Athlete team in 2009 and 2010.