This is part of an ongoing series of profiles to highlight the achievements of Sheridan's varsity student athletes academically and competitively.
THERE IS A certain spirit needed to be a cross country runner. It is a race, after all, so you are competing against other runners, but perhaps the more meaningful competition is the one against yourself. You constantly need to find ways to push yourself beyond your limits, whether there is a medal on the line or if you're just seeking a new personal best.
In order to combat the isolation that can occur from competing at a high level in an individual sport, Sheridan cross country runner Daniela Casas (Bachelor of Illustration) has embraced the team philosophy that all elements are stronger in numbers.
"When times are rough - like in the middle of a muddy race or a hard practice - having people that you can count on makes it easier to bear with," she says. "A team, even in a sport where you don't have to pass a ball, helps you feel stronger; it is better when you succeed together. Having a unit, a friend, somebody, makes life's problems easier to handle."
In Sheridan, Casas found the intersection of two passions; she was able to enrol in a highly reputable illustration program, while having the opportunity to compete for a cross country team. And her arrival on campus was fortuitous, as it came one year after the revival of cross country as a varsity sport at Sheridan.
Once a highly decorated program - indeed, Sheridan was the first OCAA institution to claim both men's (1968) and women's (1978) team championships - there had not been Bruin cross country runners since 1991.
This past season, Casas and her teammates posted a seventh place finish at the OCAA Championship - their best provincial final standing since claiming a silver medal in 1989 - which earned them a berth in the national championship meet outside Montreal. It was the first time Sheridan had qualified a women's team into the run for the Canadian title, as cross country did not begin as a CCAA sport (2002) until well after the program had previosuly folded.
Casas posted a 54th place OCAA Championship finish - improving on each of her previous two performances - and ran at a clip of 4:36 per kilometre, posting her best pace of the seasons by more than 30 seconds. During her career she has earned honours in both the athletic (winning the 2016-17 Sheridan cross country coaches award) and academic (a 2015-16 OCAA All-Academic) categories, and in a similar fashion, just as her varsity team experience has helped her learn the value of building a support network, her time in the classroom has dealt an equal number of life lessons.
"I've learned that a bad project or a bad grade does not define your talent or worth," she says. "They actually help the drive to want even more success. To achieve, you must not be afraid of failure but should welcome it with open arms."
With one year remaining until graduation, Casas already has a roadmap of where she would like to take her career. Although becoming a successful freelance illustrator is a key element in her plan, it is only just the beginning.
"I would like to open a community centre for kids, moms, seniors, and everybody who wants to do art classes as way of healing," she says, "free of charge."