Today, we salute Julia Cusatis of Saint Joseph's Catholic Academy (SJCA).
The distance runner wrapped up a strong career for the Wolves. In cross country, Cusatis was apart of SJCA's back-to-back Class 1A team titles in 2015 and 2016. The Wolves were second in 2017 and third in 2018 with Cusatis playing a crucial role each year. Her best XC state meet individual finish was 12th in 2017, a year that she also won the PIAA District 6 crown.
On the track, she was a two-time indoor state meet qualifier individually. At the 2019 PTFCA Indoor State Championships, Cusatis placed sixth in the state earning a medal. She ran her mile PR of 5:05.86 earlier that season at Penn State.
Cusatis reflected on her track and XC career below for PennTrackXC.
What was your most memorable race/competition?
My most memorable race was cross country states in 2015. I was only a freshman, and I was so naive that I was barely nervous before my first state championship meet. My fearless attitude propelled me through that race and our team won states that day! That was a magical day and I often wish I could relive it.
Where did you face your biggest competition?
We ran the DMR at the Armory this past February, and I ran the anchor leg. I didn't run very well, but nonetheless I was super excited afterwards because I had just gotten lapped by Katelyn Tuohy!
Out of all of your high school accomplishments, which stands out the most?
Medaling in the mile at indoor states my senior year was exciting for me because training had been tough for me through most of indoor. Achieving my goal of medaling at states despite having a difficult time training felt awesome! I also almost got passed right at the end of this race, but I wanted a medal so much that I pushed harder than I thought was possible through the finish line.
If you could do it all over again, what would you change about your athletic career in high school?
I wish that I had been kinder to my teammates before races. When I was nervous, I treated them very harshly, which I regret (if any of my teammates see this, I'm sorry!!).
What were the most difficult obstacles you had to overcome?
I have juvenile arthritis, which means that some of my joints and tendons hurt. This past year during indoor was the first time I had pain in a running joint (my ankle). Once my ankle started hurting while I ran, practicing became tougher and I was very close to quitting multiple times. However, with the support of my family, teammates, coaches and others, I stayed on the team through the rest of my senior year. And, sometimes my ankle feels okay while I am running, so I am thankful for those good days!!
What will you miss the most?
Singing on bus rides home, joking around with our coaches, cooling down after races, going to camp and rooming with my teammates... nothing will ever take the place of this amazing team in my heart.
Do you have any advice for younger athletes?
Don't take yourself too seriously, and have as much fun as possible while still getting the work done. If you're ever struggling to get through a workout or race, keep it simple and try to just keep running (my teammate Sera and I often used this as a goal)!! Also, always thank your coaches before leaving practice (I learned this from my teammate Addie).
How have your coaches influenced your performances and your life goals overall?
My coaches taught me to run out of love for my team. This was a helpful strategy for me because by running for someone else, the tough parts in a race seemed more doable. I feel that this idea can be translated to other aspects of life, and the moral of the story is to put others before myself (which I am definitely still working on!).
What are your post-high school plans?
I will be attending Penn State to study mathematics. My competitive running career is over, but I hope to stay involved with this sport somehow (even if that just means spending hours on Milesplit)!
Thank you to my parents and my brother for supporting my dreams but keeping things realistic, and also for listening to me talk about running all the time. Thank you to the original SJCA XC/TF team for welcoming me in four years ago, and thank you to everyone who joined since then for continuing to make the team more and more special. Thank you to my coaches for always believing in me. Go Wolves!!