Saint Martin’s University Cross-Country Star Cassidy Walchak-Sloan Sets Campus Record at National Meet and Earns All-American Honors

Saint Martin’s University senior Cassidy Walchak-Sloan says she enjoys cross-country running because it pushes her to her limits. And at the national meet late this fall, she discovered those limits were amazingly high after she set a university record and made history by becoming the second Saint Martin’s University female distance runner to earn All-American honors.

“My main goal was to push myself to my limit and run as hard as I could,” she says of the NCAA Division II Cross-Country Championships in Joplin, Missouri. “I also did my best to just have fun and enjoy the experience no matter how tired I got. I knew it was such a privilege to be at this meet, so I wanted to make the most of it and have no regrets.”

Cassidy Walchak-Sloan (pictured) is the second Saint to earn All-American status in Saint Martin’s University program history. Photo courtesy: Saint Martin’s University

Cassidy Walchak-Sloan Makes Cross-Country History at Saint Martin’s University

A runner in both the cross-country and track and field programs, Cassidy placed 27th out of 264 other competitors in the 6,000-meter national cross-country race while setting a new Saint Martin’s University record with a time of 20 minutes 34 seconds and achieving All-American status. She is the third Saint to run at nationals and joins alumna runner Shannon Porter as an All-American.

The cross-country program embodies how Saint Martin’s University’s college athletics unite the entire campus community. “In the lead-up to the conference championships, the University’s Board of Trustees paused their fall meeting, and then, joined by student-athletes from other sports and colleagues from across campus, organized a send-off for both the women’s and men’s cross-country programs,” says Saint Martin’s University Athletic Director Steve O’Brien. “They must have known that something historic was about to happen.”

“The national meet was honestly so much fun,” says Cassidy. “I had never been to a meet at this level with runners from all over the country. Having so many people watch the race and even seeing cameras helped me get into the competitive mindset and realize what an accomplishment it is to be at the national level. I had no idea I placed 27th and earned All-American honors until after the race when I saw the results. I can’t even explain how excited I was and how much more fun it made the experience.”

The women’s cross country team runs laps on Saint Martin’s track to warm up for practice. Photo courtesy: Saint Martin’s University

Saint Martin’s University Record-Holder Walchak-Sloan Balances Academics with Competitive Running

Cassidy balances her record-setting running with academics and internships in her social work major, where she is concentrating on victim services, trauma and substance use disorders. Mental discipline is required both in her schoolwork and running. “It feels more mental than physical to me, which is an aspect of distance running that I really enjoy, and I think is why I’ve gotten good at it,” says Cassidy.

And “good at it” is an understatement. “I didn’t know until about 30 minutes after the race that I broke the school record,” adds Cassidy. “It was never my goal to get the school record as it felt so out of reach, but when my coach finally told me, I was so excited. Shannon Porter had set the previous record, and she is such a talented and experienced runner. Knowing that I had just raced a similar time as she did when she was about my age felt unreal and extremely motivating.”

Despite juggling athletics with schoolwork, Cassidy encourages students to participate in college sports. “I would recommend for incoming students to remember how lucky they are to be running at a university,” she says. “Even though it may feel like a lot at times, our sports are a healthy outlet and a good way to get our mind off the stresses of schoolwork.”

Cassidy’s success streak is not over yet. After her most recent wins, at the time of this writing Cassidy is ranked #2 in the conference and #7 in the nation. Cassidy will finish her Saint Martin’s University long-distance running career during the 2024 indoor and outdoor track and field seasons before heading to graduate school.

The men’s cross-country team prepares for practice in advance of a meet. Photo courtesy: Saint Martin’s University

Saint Martin’s University Community Rallies to Boost Student-Athletes in 13 Varsity Sports

Saint Martin’s University supports more than 240 student competitors in 13 varsity sports including cross-country, track and field and more in the South Puget Sound. In recent years, the women’s cross-country team saw Cassidy’s feats and many other successes, such as when the team finished as runners-up at the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Championships. This accomplishment marked the first time in the cross-country program’s history that a team placed in the top three at the championships.

“As a department, we are so proud of Cassidy and what our women’s cross-country team has accomplished these past few seasons,” adds O’Brien. “We are thankful for the way in which our campus community has rallied around our student-athletes and our intercollegiate athletic programs. It then becomes gratifying to see a corresponding elevation in our teams’ competitive success.”

Saint Martin’s University is a private Catholic Benedictine college offering undergraduate, graduate and certificate programs spanning the liberal arts, business, computer science, education, engineering, nursing, and leadership. For more intercollegiate sports information, contact the Saint Martin’s University Athletics Department.

Saint Martin’s University
Athletics Department
5000 Abbey Way SE, Lacey