Hilliard Darby High School senior Cassady Shultz felt miserable when she was cut from the girls volleyball team during the fall of her junior year.
Not only was she upset that her seven-year career as a volleyball player had come to an end, but at 5-foot-1 and 140 pounds, she had negative feelings about her body.
She used the setback as motivation to get into the best shape of her life. And in the process of losing 30 pounds while lifting weights and running, Shultz developed into one of the girls track and field team's top distance and middle-distance runners.
"When I was told I wasn't good enough to play any position in volleyball, I took it really hard and I felt really discouraged and pushed down," Shultz said. "I felt like I was lost in the dark, but three or four days later, I realized I needed to pick myself back up and do something about it.
"I'm a big believer that everything happens for a reason, and I just feel blessed that I started running to get into better shape and discovered that I have a talent for it."
In fall 2011, Shultz began lifting weights six days a week and running about nine miles per week. She also changed her diet to include mostly healthy foods and drinks.
"I started running to improve my cardio and I fell in love with running, especially long distances," she said.
After Shultz lost 30 pounds in six months, Brooks and Jennifer Shultz became concerned that their daughter was developing an eating disorder. She began counseling and instead was diagnosed with having body dysmorphic disorder (BDD).
People with BDD are preoccupied with an imagined physical defect or a minor defect that others often cannot see.
"In my case, my eyes are always drawn to my flaws and I see myself as being bigger than I am," Shultz said. "After my counselor declared that I had body dysmorphic disorder, I worked on meditation techniques to help myself relax and get rid of any negative images. I try not to be as obsessive about exercising or eating healthy, but it's still hard for me to eat a cookie because I know it's not good for my body."
While taking a marketing class taught by Darby assistant cross country and track coach Mark Tremayne in spring 2012, Shultz and Tremayne began discussing distance running.
When Shultz told Tremayne that she had timed herself finishing a three-mile run in 20 minutes, 7 seconds, he had her meet with girls cross country and track coach Don Seymour.
Seymour persuaded Shultz to give cross country a try for the first time last fall, and she quickly developed into the Panthers' No. 2 runner.
After finishing a race in 21:47 early in the season, Shultz gradually improved to the point where she finished 10th in the OCC-Cardinal Division meet in a personal-record 19:19.56.
"Cassady's an amazing story," Seymour said. "I first met her in the sixth grade and she was this non-athletic kid who didn't even like to run. And then as a junior, she dedicated herself to running, lost a lot of weight and became one of our top cross country runners of all time."
On April 4 while competing for the track team in the Chillicothe Zane Trace Invitational, Shultz set a personal record of 5:43.4 in the 1,600 meters.
Seymour plans to have her compete in the 3,200 and 800 during the regular season as well, as he continues to search for her best event.
Meanwhile, in just one year of competitive running, Shultz has attracted the attention of college coaches.
"I've heard from Division II and III schools, and even a couple Division I coaches," Shultz said.
"I never would have dreamed that I'd get the chance to run in college. I'm 99.9 percent sure I'm going to run cross country and track at Otterbein and I'm so excited to have that opportunity."
Shultz, who has a cumulative 4.0 GPA, wants to major in education or nursing and coach distance runners.
"Running has completely changed my life and this is the happiest I've ever been," she said.