Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Kasten flying high at Vandy

Norwalk's James Kasten and his Vanderbilt University cross country team are flying high in Nashville, Tennessee.

Kasten, who is entering his senior year at Vanderbilt, is part of a cross country team that notched the highest overall team grade point average (3.755) among NCAA Division I programs. That earned him and his teammates USTFCCCA's All-Academic honors.

Kasten, who is 6-foot-7, has a GPA of 4.0 individually. He has a personal best of 15.50 in the 5K (3.1 miles) and 26.10 in the 8K (5 miles), and keeps improving every time out.

"I've improved my times quite a bit," Kasten said. "I've been breaking times that I didn't think were possible before. Running in big meets like SEC's and the Pre-Nationals has been fun."

Kasten is one of just two seniors that will return this season. He knows the team is in rebuilding mode so he will concentrate on his individual times.

"My goals are to improve my personal records. I'd like to be more competitive in the SEC this year and be in the upper half of runners. I'd like to run 25.30 in the 8K."

This past season, Kasten and the Commodores finished third at the Belmont/VU Opener, and followed that with a win at their Commodore Classic. Vanderbilt also qualified 18th at the Greater Louisville Classic, and 13th at the NCAA South Regional.

Kasten finished 20th (27.27) individually at the Commodore Classic after placing 42nd his sophomore year. He placed 75th (26.23) after taking 91st his sophomore year and notched 158th (26.11) at the Greater Louisville Classic after placing 217th a year before.

His sophomore year was his first year running and he earned the Best Newcomer award at the postseason banquest, which is pretty impressive for someone that didn't make the team his freshman year. Kasten, whose been running cross country since middle school, ran with the team as a freshman, but didn't make the cut to compete in meets.

"Dedication and competitiveness is the biggest difference at this level," Kasten said. "College is a lot more competitive than in high school. People are very serious and especially at the upper rankings, a lot more intense."

Kasten, who is also a licensed pilot, pursued a flying license right out of high school. He has his own plane — a 172 Sky Hawk — and would like to eventually get his Instrument Flight Rating (IFR) and a Commercial license. He became interested in flying planes at 14 years old and went after his pilot license the moment he graduated high school.

For now, he says flying planes will remain a hobby, after he graduates this spring with a Economics and Computer Science degree. He then plans on going to graduate school to get his Ph. D, in hopes of becoming a professor for Computer Science.

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