Student-athletes find the right balance to excel in the classroom


DePaul Athletics/Steve Woltmann

Casey Mulvey throws a shot put at the Big East Track and Field Indoor Championship on Feb. 26.

Shot put athletes spend hours every week training to compete at each meet and conference. They warm up, lift, run and throw to prepare for their events in hope of placing. They need to be mentally and physically tough to make it onto the podium and win a medal.

At DePaul, shot put athletes on the track and field team had a very successful season. Many of the throwers found places on the podiums at their meets and won several silver and gold medals. The athletes and coaches worked together all season to meet goals, improve their performance and come together as a team.

With the team’s recent success at the Big East Track and Field Outdoor Championship on May 13-14, where shot put athletes freshman Casey Mulvey and junior Jason Montano brought home silver and gold medals, respectively, they talked about their goals and how it feels to do well for their team.

Montano, a shot put and discus thrower, said that his indoor season this year wasn’t what he expected, but he came back after an injury and won a gold medal at conference. Montano set big long-term goals for himself and has worked on achieving them.

He suffered an injury during the third week of outdoor track and field season. This put him out for over a month, and he was unable to train and compete with his team. After this injury, he knew he had to come back and do his best to prove to himself and others that he could reach his goals.

“I think one of my goals is that I want to be an 18-plus meter shot putter next year,” Montano said. “The other goal I have is that I want to try to score in discus. My two long-term goals I have [are] to graduate and go to the Olympics in 2024.”

Montano said that he was able to learn from his other teammates to ensure everyone was achieving their aims. His teammates taught him to hold his other teammates accountable to their goals. If they say they want to do something, everyone makes sure they achieve it.

Montano recently won a gold medal during the conference competition. If it weren’t for his teammates, he said he wouldn’t have done as well as he did. Montano set his personal goals high and received first place and a gold medal during the conference the weekend of May 13. He threw 16.57 meters, or 54 feet and 4.5 inches.

“On that last throw, if I didn’t have my crew and everybody there, I wouldn’t have been able to do what I did,” Montano said.

Assistant coach Brandon Murer has worked hard to create his own personal goals and team goals to help his athletes grow. Over his 17 years as a coach, he has changed his approach to goals and goal setting. One of his main goals was to just come together and have fun. He also said that their range goals were important for the team.

“We always have goals — that’s part of being in athletics,” Murer said. “One of the primary cornerstones of success is having goals. This year, I started a couple different things with my athletes. We started to have what I call range goals. What’s the bottom end of you at least being content with the day, and what’s the upper end? What’s that range? In that range is where most performance happens.”

As athletes set their personal goals, including new PR’s or personal improvement, and work to achieve them, they will sometimes feel frustrated about not reaching their highest aspirations. Murer said that even if they’re not meeting those goals right away, it’s part of the process. Some athletes feel down on themselves because they aren’t achieving their goals as quickly as they would like, but that is the reality of being an athlete.

After being apart because of the Covid-19 pandemic, Murer wanted to come together as a team and enjoy the season.

“I just wanted to have fun,” Murer said. “Can we come back as a group? Can we come together? It’s taken a while.”

Murer also asks his athletes to do check-ins with him to ensure they are taking care of their mental and physical health and their studies.

“I have asked all of them to come in and do check-ins with me,” Murer said. “If I haven’t seen them in my office, I will go up and ask them [how they are doing].”

Mulvey, a shot put, discus and hammer thrower for DePaul, is from Ireland and moved to DePaul for school and to compete on the track and field team. Her support system was mainly back home, but her coach was her main source of support when she was starting out.

“My main source of support was my coach,” Mulvey said. “Obviously he recruited me, and I learned a lot from him.”

Mulvey also said that she and her teammates hold each other accountable by making sure that they advocate for themselves. As a freshman from Ireland, she had to build all new relationships with her teammates, as well as adjust to the American school system. As she developed new relationships with her teammates, she learned how to encourage them to reach their goals.

“I always talk to my teammates about if they have something they’re not liking, they need to advocate for themself to change that,” Mulvey said. “Me and the throwers are very close, so we keep each other accountable for what we are doing as well.”

During meets, Mulvey said she needs to keep her mind clear to be able to throw successfully during her meets.

“For me, keeping a clear mind is my main weakness,” Mulvey said. “If I’m not confident, then I won’t throw well.”

Mulvey landed on the podium many times for shot put between indoor and outdoor competition this season.

She earned gold medals at the Notre Dame Invitational on Jan. 22 with a distance of 15.3m and at the Illini Classic on April 9 with a distance of 14.28m. Mulvey also placed second at the Blue & Gold Invitational on Dec. 3, the Blue Demon Holiday Invite on Dec. 10, the Big East Indoor Championship on Feb. 26.

Mulvey has never been on a team before because she participated in club sports back home. She said feeling the success of her teammates and performing well for them is important for her now that she has experienced it for herself.

“I’ve never been on a team before, I’ve always competed and trained by myself,” Mulvey said. “It’s a new feeling to be responsible for your team as well and having the feeling that you have to compete for your team. It’s amazing seeing so many school records being broken.”

The shot put team has been wildly successful and broke many records this season. The team has bonded and grown throughout the year to bring this success and accomplishment back home from every meet. Montano set a new personal record with his throw that won him a gold medal.

The throwers on the track team all rely on each other to stay accountable for their goals and accomplishments. Murer said that this is an important aspect of the team that he tries to instill in his athletes.

“We rely on each other,” Murer said. “When [athletes] say that they’re relying on each other, that’s a primary thing that we talk about.”