Cass Meadows, a sophomore defender on the men's soccer team, has started five of the Spiders' six games this season and had been identified by his coach as an important part of the team's success at the Duquesne Invitational earlier this month.
Last fall he competed for the varsity cross country team.
"That just shows how talented a kid he is," soccer coach Jeff Gettler said. "Not everybody has the ability to compete in two sports [at the Division I level]."
Meadows participated in both soccer and cross country all through high school in Huntington, W.Va., where he was twice a member of the school's state champion 4x800m relay team and received All-State honors for soccer his junior and senior years.
Although Meadows would've liked to participate in either sport at the collegiate level, when he was a senior in high school his cross country coach was more involved during his college selection process and knew University of Richmond men's track and field coach Steve Taylor.
The cross country team typically enters 12 varsity runners in a meet, but sends only seven to regional meets, Meadows said. He ran somewhere in between No. 7 and No. 12, he said. After just one season, he decided to try out for the soccer team.
"It was weird having to choose," he said. "But I talked to coach Taylor and he told me, 'Life's too short to not do what you like.'"
Taylor was supportive of Meadows' decision and told him to give soccer a try, but if it didn't work out he could come back to the cross country team, Meadows said.
Meadows joined the soccer team two weeks into its spring training last year.
During winter break he played in an adult indoor league and ran with friends back home in order to be ready for spring with the soccer team.
Because he had quit playing soccer and his body had adjusted to purely long-distance running, by spring Meadows said he was thinner and had lost some of his speed and agility for soccer.
When Meadows switched to playing soccer, his training regime changed significantly. The soccer team
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trained to be quick and agile, which meant a lot of lifting -- fewer repetitions of heavier weights -- and fitness involving more sprints than he had ever run before, he said.
Gettler said Meadows had been "OK on the ball" when he first started, but pointed out his hard work during the spring and his success this fall.
"He kept the ball and passed pretty well," Gettler said. "It was just getting back to all the things involved in soccer, not just skills.
"This fall's been great. He's started in most of the games. ... He's only going to get better, which bodes well for this season."
He's had more fun this year than any other year, Meadows said.
The transition from one team to another wasn't that difficult, but going from an individual sport to a team sport meant adjusting to different team dynamics, he said.
"It was definitely a different atmosphere," he said. "With cross country you're friends with everybody, but you're all in competition for the same thing. Soccer is more of a team sport, less do-it-by-yourself."
He still keeps up with the cross country team, he said, and runs with his friends at home.
"It's not the running I really like," he said. "I like the guys. It's a time to hang out and see everybody."
More than one Richmond athlete has switched sports during the past few years. During the summer of 2007, Richmond graduate Drew Crank quit playing basketball before his senior year, but took a spot on the men's tennis team.
Crank had played both tennis and basketball during high school but was recruited by Richmond for basketball.
"I liked what UR had to offer basketball-wise and the school," he said. "So it was a logical fit."
By the end of his junior year, despite the fact that he had played in 84 basketball games for Richmond, Crank said he hadn't been enjoying the way things on the basketball team had been going. He said he had been pleased he could join the tennis team and continue to represent the school.
Crank kept up his tennis skills through college and had even worked several camps with the tennis coach.
The most difficult part of his transition back to tennis was getting back into "tennis shape," he said. Although he'd worked camps, Crank hadn't played competitively for several years.
Similar to Meadows, Crank said he was confronted with difference in team dynamics.
"Basketball's team-oriented," he said. "There's five people on the court and everyone's on the bench cheering and supporting. With tennis, it's individual. Even with doubles it's you and one other person out fighting for yourselves.
"You still represent the team, but you're fighting by yourself, every match."
Crank finished the 2008 season in Richmond's No. 1 doubles spot with partner Michael Sommer.
Regardless of records and successes, being able to compete in two very different Division I sports is an accomplishment.
"The first thing you have to recognize is talent," Gettler said.
Contact staff writer Jacki Raithel at firstname.lastname@example.org
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