In running, there's only one path to the finish line.
When it comes to life, it's not so simple.
When Christy Cazzola attended Kaukauna High School she won a Track and Field State Championship in the 800M as a freshman, and a State Cross Country title as a senior. In between, Division I colleges came calling, but they didn't get the response they were used to.
"I understand there are people that strive for that; that's all they want to get," Cazzola said Wednesday. "But I didn't really didn't strive for that. It wasn't something I was working for for four years. It was something that came to me, it was an opportunity that I could either take or leave."
And boldly, she left it. Unsure of her next step and fearful that she could lose her passion for running in a Division I environment, Cazzola put college on hold.
"I just really wasn't willing to sacrifice my whole life to someone else's calling," Cazzola said. "I didn't know if running was my only calling."
She would find out that it wasn't. After high school Cazzola worked at a restaurant in Appleton with Shuma Kuwamoto, whom she went to high school with in Kaukauna. He would become her fianc, and the couple had a baby boy, Noah in 2006.
Cazzola decided to enroll at UW-Oshkosh two years later to pursue a degree in education. She also re-visited competitive running by joining the cross country team, but life once again had other plans.
"At regionals I did not feel well at all and people made comments you're really pale, you don't look so well," Cazzola recalls. "I never got sick. This is a feeling I've had before, but only once before."
After getting the doctor's blessing, Cazzola ran at nationals the next week, pregnant with her second child.
Her daughter Maya was born in 2009, and the now mother or two returned to running for the Titans in 2010.
"Coming back I didn't have a lot of expectations or goals," Cazzola said. "I just wanted to see where I was at."
That Spring Cazzola competed in track and field for the first time since junior year of high school, and took home the National Championship in the 1500M outdoor run. Even more impressive when considering she was dealing some new challenges.
"I just really need to work on strengthening the hips and strengthening my core," Cazzola said. "That was a really difficult thing. Even now I still need to continue to do that because once you have children, it's just different. Those things get weaker."
And yet her performances continued to get stronger. She's tacked on three more Track & Field National Titles, and the 27-year old senior added a National Cross Country Championship to her list of accomplishments late in 2012. She's also re-writing the D-III record books, setting three national records.
"In Division III nobody else has three national records," Co-Interim Head Coach Drew Ludtke said. "So that makes her arguably one of the best D-III athletes in track and field history."
"She definitely is a big motivator, just to watch her do workouts," says junior distance runner Allie DeBaker. "It's incredible how fast she can go. She's definitely an inspiration to all of us."
She's setting the pace in the classroom as well as an Academic All-American.
"I'm just living life and going with the flow," Cazzola says. "This is where it brought me. This is what makes me happy. It's a wonderful balance between what I want to do in my athletic career, and do in my personal life."
And Cazolla is further proof that in life, there is no set path to the finish line.
"My journey seems really exceptional to a lot of people, but it seems like the way I needed to do things to love myself and be happy every day."
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