Amidst the many track and cross country runners of Casa Grande High School is a girl whose drive and determination has shaped her into a competitor to keep an eye on. Sophomore Saskia van Ommeren-Egberts has spent many years of hard work and devotion to the sport that she excels in: running.
Van Ommeren-Egberts' fifth-grade teacher, Carl Triola, is also one of Casa Grande High School's track and cross country coaches. "He always promoted running, and we ran three times a week in his class," said van Ommeren-Egberts. In fifth grade, on the days when van Ommeren-Egberts' class wouldn't run, she would wake up before school started to run with her aunt. "Both of them introduced me to running," the runner said.
Van Ommeren-Egberts expressed an interest in running once she began high school, developing a dedication to becoming a skilled runner. "The coach would send out emails, and he would always say to keep running over the summer, so that is what I did. I stuck with it," she said.
Her commitment paid off. She earned a spot on varsity cross country as well as varsity track in her freshman year, and has kept up with it throughout her sophomore year.
"Last year, freshman year, when I went the closest you can get to the state championships in track. I went as an individual in both races: the Meet of Champions finals in the two mile and preliminaries in the one mile. It was cool because I was all by myself, but it was also nerve-racking," said van Ommeren-Egberts. "Hopefully I'll get there (to state) this year."
Van Ommeren-Egberts began her sophomore year with an unanticipated, but well-deserved, cross country win. "I was really nervous for the first race because I didn't know where I stood among the other racers. My freshman year I was good, but I wasn't on the top. I started to work my way up to fourth or third place in races," said van Ommeren-Egberts. "I ended up getting first place, and that was one of the big races that I actually placed first in, so that was unexpected. I don't think anybody really expected that."
Van Ommeren-Egberts continues to push herself. "I want to be good at what I do. I'm not skilled in any other sport," she explained. "I just have school, cross country and track. I really think it's based off of your dedication. You can't be good at something unless you practice. It's great to see your times improve with practice. That is what drives me."
Van Ommeren-Egberts hopes to be running her way out of high school and into a university. "In the long run, I want to get a scholarship and try to go somewhere with it. I really want to continue running once I'm in college."
Van Ommeren-Egberts describes herself as the team player and motivator among her fellow cross country and track runners. "I'm the one that gets the team together — team warm ups, team runs, team cool downs. I try to get us all to do it together. Whenever we need someone to run in a race or something, I might complain, but I'll do it.
"I think a lot of people know that I really try my hardest at practice, so they look at me in that way," she said. "I'm the try hard person — the overachiever."