Southridge's Wertman was premier thrower

Brooke Stevens/The Herald
Cassie Wertman prepared to throw a shot put during the 2012 IHSAA Track and Field event in Bloomington. Cassie took first place in the shot put competition with a throw of 50 feet, 11⁄4 inches.

By JONATHAN SAXON
jsaxon@dcherald.com

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Cassie Wertman has accomplished quite a bit in a relatively short amount of time.

The 2012 Southridge graduate won two individual state titles in high school, took her talents to the University of Tennessee and competed for a chance to be part of the Olympic team in 2016 by the time she was 23. Those achievements would be prominent features for anyone, but Wertman kind of frames them as afterthoughts when talking about them.

“A lot of people say I don’t give myself enough credit for it,” said Wertman. “It was just an experience.”

But those accomplishments are all the more impressive given the nonchalant way Wertman refers to them. If she’s being honest, Wertman wasn’t originally that excited about being a thrower. But as a seventh grader, she showed up to a Southridge practice one day and managed to outthrow all of the high schoolers. Seeing how good she was, Wertman figured she should just go ahead and embrace her throwing pedigree.

“My dad threw shot put in college, and my brother threw,” she said. “I showed up one day, tossed it and it went farther than all the high schoolers. I didn’t love it, but I was good at it. So I was like, ‘I might as well keep doing this.’”

It was clear early on that Wertman was a standout among her high school peers. She broke the school shot put record as a freshman and crushed the discus counterpart as a sophomore. She also collected a shelf full of sectional and regional titles on the way. Wertman’s father, Kevin, kept track of how she ranked nationally, but the weight of her talent didn’t really sink in until an unofficial visit to the University of Louisville her junior year.

“I didn’t realize how good I was until a college coach actually told me,” Cassie said. “He told me you could have scholarships in track and field — you have the second farthest throw in the nation this year. I was like, ‘Oh, well that’s kinda cool.’ I was oblivious. I was just doing the best I could.”

Brooke Stevens/The Herald
Southridge’s Cassie Wertman hugged girls track head coach Elaine Main after winning first place in shot put during the 2012 IHSAA Girls State Track Sectional at Bloomington. Wertman also placed fourth in discus.

It turned out that doing her best was enough to blow away her competition, even with her spreading her athletic ability across three sports throughout her high school career. Wertman just had an uncanny knack for knocking down whatever goals she set for herself.

“It was a simple plan,” she said. “I looked at the next best girl or the top throw in the state and said I want to do better than that. That’s the way it went. I just kinda showed up and hoped I threw farther than everyone else.”

The state titles in discus (2011) and shot put (2012) would indicate she was successful in that endeavour, but it didn’t stop there. Wertman earned All-American honors twice while at Tennessee and qualified for the Rio de Janeiro Olympic trials. Wertman wound up finishing 15th overall, but she remembers it being an amazing experience realizing her talent took her from Holland to competing against the best of the best in the nation.

“I was competing in the SEC, the best track conference in the country,” she said. “I was walking into track meets with Olympians. There’s a little bit of, ‘Holy crap, am I supposed to be here? Is this a fluke?’ You had to get used to it.”

But as great as that all was, Wertman still has the rest of her life to keep on growing and building. She still lives in Knoxville, Tenn., where she works at a functional fitness gym, mountain bikes five times a week and plans to go back to school to pursue a nursing degree with a focus on ICU trauma. Reminiscing about her past exploits was nice, but she thinks her experiences can serve others better by being an example of what one can do with hard work.

“I hope other athletes in the area look at me and realize they can do something, too,” she said. “Anything is possible, you just have to work hard. Being uncomfortable is a good thing. If you’re not uncomfortable, you’re not progressing.”




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