Whether it’s becoming a national champion, the fastest 5,000m female runner in DIII history, earning the title of National Runner Athlete of the Week, or being named the national scholar athlete of the year by the US Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association, Kassie Parker (’23) is a Loras College celebrity. She holds every school record from the mile to 10,000m races. Beyond her distinguished achievements in running, Parker’s past has shaped who and where she is today.
After years of moving around as a child, Parker finally settled down in in Guttenberg, Iowa. Similarly, it took a few years before she would also find an emotional home with the discovery of running. It was Parker’s sophomore year of high school when she noticed girls running, when she thought she might have what it takes to be a runner.
“When I was little I felt out of place playing various types of sports, never fully enjoying them all. I thought I’d always play volleyball and that’s it.”
While running cross country and track at Clayton Ridge High School, she was overlooked by college recruiters despite a personal best of 20:20 in the 5,000m.
Parker decided to pursue her academic career at the University of Iowa. “I planned to put running behind me, but something in the back of my head told me to keep with it.” She joined the Iowa Running Club where she was able to compete against some DIII schools. Shocking herself in a race with her time and place, Parker thought: what if?
After one year in Iowa City, she wanted a change, a challenge, but most importantly, she wanted a place that felt like home. Parker transferred into Loras College as a sophomore with an eagerness to hit big goals. She received reassurance on her decision through both the team that welcomed her and the personalized attention in her classes.
Training under Robert Schultz (MA ’94), head cross country coach, she was able to gain confidence and dream big. “Never would I imagine running these great times or going up against some of the best girls in DI.” Parker has raised the bar of DIII running by showing that talent is not defined by division.
Parker isn’t just a normal student-athlete excelling both in the classroom and on the track. A full-time student majoring in kinesiology, she also works at a local grocery store pharmacy. “I work at a job I am passionate about which sometimes gives me a distraction from school or running. Having multiple things I enjoy just makes my days happier and less stressful.”
She wouldn’t be where she is today if it wasn’t for her past experiences that taught her how to persevere through pain. “I went through challenges, big and small. It showed me there’s a lot of certainty that I’ll live through it.”
In 2021, Parker tackled one of those challenges when she formally changed her last name from Rosenbum. Her previous name was associated with unpleasant memories while the new one connects to family that provides unconditional love.
“To me, my new last name, Parker, is a new start and I can redefine who I want to be. That person is kind, hard-working, independent, and so much more.”
With a new name and new outlook, Parker is achieving higher goals than ever before.
“To me, going above and beyond is something that is just normal for me now. It makes me eager for the next challenge.”
Challenges doesn’t scare Kassie Parker. Instead, she is motivated to run through them.