STONINGTON — Emily Cassata carries two big sticks — and they have names.
The Stonington High School senior named her lacrosse stick Kemba, after the NBA star and former University of Connecticut men’s basketball champion Kemba Walker. Her field hockey stick is Viper.
Kemba and Viper helped Cassata and the Bears’ girls lacrosse and field hockey teams take home state titles this year. For days afterward, Cassata wore the championship medals. “I didn’t feel like taking them off,” said Cassata, 18, the captain of both teams. “A state championship is such a rare thing to win. It’s huge. And the lacrosse championship made history. It was the first time a girls lacrosse team at Stonington High School ever won a championship.”
Cassata, a self-professed late bloomer in sports and academics, didn’t even want to play lacrosse when she was in middle school because she was afraid she was going to get hit with a stick.
“She wanted to just sit and read all the time,” her dad, Tony Cassata, said of his middle daughter. “But once she started, that’s all it took. She’s very diligent. She conditions during the off season, goes to the gym. When she doesn’t practice she runs three miles that day.”
Cassata will graduate in the top 10 percent of the SHS Class of 2014 on Thursday evening during commencement exercises. That’s after she loaded her academic schedule this year: Advanced Placement biology, AP psychology, AP calculus and Spanish 5, to name a few.
“I gave myself my hardest schedule of my high school career,” she said. “But hardships in sports, hardships in academics … they just make me a better person in the end.”
Cassata said she likes the high-speed pace she has in her life because it keeps her in line and helps with time management. Besides academics and sports, she also volunteers for the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization.
“It’s my way of giving back to the community,” Cassata said. “Being a mentor was such a reward and experience. You definitely see other things that are going on out there, things I didn’t know about and it made me realize how lucky I was.”
She will attend Quinnipiac University in Hamden in the fall, study physical therapy and play lacrosse for the Bobcats.
Her mom, Stacy Cassata, said her daughter has another goal she’s set for herself.
“She wants to run a half marathon in Washington, D.C., in April,” Stacy said. “She always wants to set that next goal. When she was in the seventh grade at Pawcatuck Middle School, she was at an awards banquet and she watched the eighth-graders win their awards and medals.
“After each one, Emily would say, ‘I’m going to get that one, and that one, and that one.’”