Julia Kassem, center, poses for a photograph at the NAIA National Championships last fall. Photo courtesy of Julia Kassem.
Julia Kassem, center, poses for a photograph at the NAIA National Championships last fall. Photo courtesy of Julia Kassem.
Julia Kassem, center, poses for a photograph at the NAIA National Championships last fall. Photo courtesy of Julia Kassem.

By Danielle Cowart, Staff Reporter

Coming into college as a freshman, you are held to many expectations as a student-athlete. Julia Kassem came into the University of Michigan-Dearborn this past fall from Northville High school with plans of running on the cross-country team.

She did more than just that. She represented the program, along with junior Quinn Osgood, on the university’s athletic banners.

Cross country coach Joe Horka chose Kassem to be the face of her squad on the banner because of her hard work and ability.

“I never thought I’d be a billboard so it was a bit overwhelming,” said Kassem. “It did, eventually, force me to move past my own self-consciousness about it. Being a sort of flagship image for university athletics did further my own standards and signify my responsibility and credibility as a student athlete. It certainly motivated me to surmount that literal image.”

This season Kassem ended up at the NAIA National Championships in Lawrence, Kansas, becoming the second Wolverine to qualify since the program started in 2010. At the NAIA National Championship, she finished 216 overall, with a 20:22:47 time.

“Julia has been an important building block to the women’s cross-country team,” Horka said. “Her talent, combined with her strong work ethic, left me little doubt during the season that she would put herself in a position to represent the university on the national stage.”

She led her team in all the meets that she competed in, along with every practice. She has a maturity to her that most freshmen don’t, something that separates Kassem from her peers.

But because she was a freshman, Horka did not find it crucial to name Kassem captain this season. He mentioned he looks forward to her becoming a better runner while also taking on an increased leadership role as she continues to participate in the program.

Being a student-athlete often has its perks, and makes a huge impact on athlete’s college experiences other than just winning races.

“It’s really set standards for me as a student and motivated me to get involved more in the university,” Kassem said. “I would have been so much more reluctant if the team hadn’t showed me the ropes of college and if the sport hadn’t provided me with the endurance and motivation to further those traits in and out of classes at the university.”