Sasha Spalding breaks records, not hearts on Valentine’s

Shot put is among the myriad track and field events Sasha Spalding has found success in. (credit: Courtesy of CMU Athletics Dept.) Shot put is among the myriad track and field events Sasha Spalding has found success in. (credit: Courtesy of CMU Athletics Dept.)

“College is something you want to remember for your whole lifetime,” sprinter and hurdler Sasha Spalding said, retelling the words that changed not only her Carnegie Mellon experience, but also her life, for the better. The senior business administration major and global systems and management minor gave advice that every student still buried nose-deep in homework ought to notice.

The Springhill, Fla. native first became interested in sports in first grade, when she would wait for the lunch tables to be removed from the gym before launching into hours of basketball. Even though few of her friends played and her parents weren’t exactly enthusiastic about the amount of time she spent on the sport, she found herself continuing to play for the sheer fun of it. Although she had intended to continue playing basketball on her high school’s team, her athletic ability was noticed by Coach Joel Myers of the track team as she played, and Myers enlisted the team to convince her to give track and field a try.

“It took them a while to convince me,” Spalding said. While she was passionate about basketball, many of her friends were on the track team, and they eventually wore her down. Spalding quickly became hooked on the sport. Her prowess as a basketball player translated to both speed and endurance on the track. During her high school years, the team went to the state championships every year, and she was an integral part of the team’s success.

When the time came to apply for college, both academics and athletics were on her mind. She was initially interested in joining a Division I school in order to be part of an already established program, but none of them fit the academic rigor she was looking for. In Carnegie Mellon, she finally found what she was looking for: an academically rigorous school with a track program that offered her the opportunity to play an important role.

At first, like many first-year students discovering for the first time what it means to be a Tartan, she found herself swamped by the workload her classes gave her. As a result, she was unable to join the cross country team because she spent all her time on academics. Needless to say, she was not happy with these circumstances and went to her adviser, the Business Administration Program’s Executive Director Dr. Milton Cofield, for the advice that changed everything. “School is more than academics,” he told her, encouraging her to get out and do things at which she’d be able to look back and smile fondly.

Taking his advice to heart, Spalding decided that she would join the track team for the spring semester, despite the intense workload. “It was awesome,” she said of her first days with the team. She quickly realized that this was something she wanted to do throughout school. “Everyone was really welcoming.” She appreciated most how many people from different backgrounds and majors came together, united by the sport and the coaching staff.

Her proudest track accomplishment was her performance at a University of Chicago meet last year. It was a 30 degree day with howling winds — not the best of circumstances. In addition, Spalding wasn’t exactly in the best shape possible. “I was injured pretty much all season,” she said. Despite the ominous atmosphere, everything came together for her as she finished second in the long jump and third in shot put.

Spalding’s athletic accomplishments have only grown more impressive since then. In the past few weeks, she was named University Athletic Association (UAA) Women’s Field Athlete of the Week, not once, but twice. On Feb. 2, she earned the honor with her performance at Case Western Reserve University in the long jump, shot put, 200-meter dash, and 4X400 relay. Two weeks later, she was chosen again, this time for her performance at Tiffin University on Valentines Day. During the meet, she set a new Carnegie Mellon record with a long jump of 5.31 meters.

While she highly values her athletic achievements, she has given equal value to her academics, and has almost completed her education. After she graduates, Spalding will become a project manager at Capital One, but she also plans on becoming a personal trainer. “I’m not going to be one-dimensional,” she said, remembering the time before joining the track team. “I plan on living life to the fullest.”