She was the Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 2003, earned first-team All-Big Ten honors in 2004 and finished 11th at the NCAA Championships in 2005 to earn All-American honors.
So after finishing 33rd at the 2006 NCAA Championships in Terre Haute on Nov. 20, what's next for former North Putnam High School standout and current University of Illinois senior Cassie Hunt? A possible Olympic tryout.
Recently, Hunt told the BannerGraphic via e-mail that with only one semester of collegiate competition left, she has started thinking about her future, and the possibility of trying out for the Olympic Team in the steeplechase is possible.
The steeplechase is a 3,000 meter race, or seven-and-a-half laps around a 400-meter track. During the first lap of the race, runners encounter no barriers but with each lap, runners encounter five barriers, four of which are on level ground and the final barrier being a water jump, which consists of a barrier followed by a pit of water 12-feet in length.
"If I keep improving, who knows what could happen," Hunt said.
Hunt finished 33rd at this year's cross country championships, missing another All-American honor by three spots.
While Hunt missed out on a chance to repeat as an All-American, she was still pleased with her performance.
"The race went very well for me," she said via e-mail. "I had been struggling all season, and definitely was not at the same level I was during previous seasons, so I was very pleased with my finish."
She said heading into her final cross country race, she had no expectations.
"I knew that I was capable of running much better than my previous races indicated, but I didn't put pressure on myself by setting some goal that was going to be way out of reach," she said. "I knew that I would help the team if I was in the top 50, so that's what I was aiming for."
As a team, the Illini placed eighth overall in the race, which was hosted by Indiana State University. Illinois finished with 304 points, four points from sixth place.
Stanford won the race for its fourth national title, and third in the past four years.
Freshman Angela Bizzarri led the Illini in the contest, placing 24th to earn All-American honors.
While Hunt wasn't all that pleased with her individual performance, she said the team did quite well.
"Overall, I wasn't too pleased with my performance as an individual since this was my last year," she said. "However, I was very happy with my team and what we accomplished together.
"There were times when we were pretty disappointed in the results, but we did have our moments and throughout the process, we learned a lot."
Hunt's career with the Illini is winding down, as she has only winter and spring track events left to compete in.
Hunt said after a week off from the cross country final, the squad started gearing up for the winter indoor track season.
She has one semester of college remaining. Hunt said she will complete an internship during the summer to complete the requirements for her major and hopes to work on campus so she can continue to train.
"After graduation, I definitely want to continue running," Hunt said. "I think that if I stay healthy and continue to work, hard, I can take my running career to the next level."
How far does she plan to go?
Hunt said her primary goal is to stay healthy and continue running. The next level, for her, after college would be international competition.
As a junior for North Putnam, Hunt captured the 1,600-meter state title and was second in the event as a senior. She also finished third in the 3,200-meter race as a senior. In addition, Hunt placed 14th in the cross country state finals as a senior in 2003.
She is the daughter of Jesse Hunt and James and Catherine Engle.