Sandy Dasalla didn't think competing in a collegiate sport was going to be an option for her.
The senior on the track and field team had accepted that she would just go to Seattle U as a student and maybe play intramurals to stay active. But, with the urging from her mom, she was encouraged to reach out to assistant coach Chad Pharis.
“I e-mailed Coach and just said, ‘hey, this is me, is there a spot on the team? I'd love to try to walk on,' and he sent me back the standards and I was like, ‘whoa, I don't have those. Nevermind',” Dasalla said.
But Pharis decided to give her an opportunity in the form of an extended walk-on tryout. It wasn't something she expected, but for the entirety of her freshman fall quarter, Dasalla showed up to every practice to try to earn her spot.
“At the end of the quarter, he said, ‘you don't have to worry about the spot on the team. You're a part of our family now. You're on the team',” Dasalla said. “I called my mom and I cried. I was so excited. It was awesome. He just opened this door for me that I never thought could be opened.”
Dasalla was quickly overwhelmed by the hectic schedule of being a collegiate student-athlete, and she began to question the opportunity she was lucky to receive.
She admits she wanted to quit, but was quickly talked out of it by Pharis.
He told her: “I want you on the team and I think you're going to do well. You can do this. I want you to be here,” Dasalla said. “He believed in me, and that convinced me to stay.”
If it weren't for the team, Dasalla doesn't know how she would have gone through it all.
Between the busy schedule, living away from home and acknowledging that she wasn't the best on the team, it was a lot to handle.
But she's happy she stuck with it, and is grateful for her coaches and teammates who helped her get through it.
“I knew whatever I was going through that somebody was going to be there and without the team, I wasn't going to have that. I also wasn't going to have the academic support I needed to do well in school,” Dasalla said. “I wasn't going to have that community – these people who are chasing the same thing that I am, not only in track but in school and in life, and they really helped push me and inspire me to stick with it and know that I can do it.”
Dasalla knows that she isn't a student-athlete who broke records or became a Western Athletic Conference (WAC) Champion. But she's proud to say she was part of the team. And she's still equally invested in the program.
“It took a lot for me to get to this point because obviously they're going to champion the people who are on the top, and I want that for them,” Dasalla said. “I love hearing about that. It's awesome. But it's not everything.”
It's been a process for Dasalla to get to that point. To have a sort of ease around knowing that she won't be remembered necessarily for her athletic accomplishments.
She talked about this with Pharis. She wanted to know what people would say about her as a senior.
What she learned: “They're going to say your name and they're going to know you did it and you're going to know you did it,” Dasalla said. “It's all these other experiences that you're taking away from it that makes it all worth it.”
The day she learned that, she said, changed her life. It put her entire student-athlete experience at Seattle U into perspective.
Now, Dasalla knows what she wants to be remembered for after she graduates, and she knows she's going to have made a mark. Even if it was just one memory she left with someone, that will make her happy.
“I want to be remembered as someone who's more than just an athlete,” Dasalla said. “This program teaches you more than just to run and jump. It changes your life.”