Alfredo Mazzuca of men’s cross country, still a freshman with only six invitational competitions under his belt, had already earned four Liberty League Rookie of the Week accolades. Mazzuca, hailing from New Paltz, New York, became interested in running when he was in middle school and eventually chose to run cross country over playing soccer. During his high school career, his team went to State Championships four times, solidifying the idea that the team is everything when it comes to his sport.
“It really taught me to cooperate with my team, and through that I became more of a team player than an individualist. I focused more on making sure that the team succeeded over myself succeeding,” he said. “I think that that has really helped me become a better runner in itself.”
Mazzuca chose Vassar mainly for its academics. “I would like to say that I was recruited, but one of the bigger parts was academics. I was looking for a school that was challenging, also very diverse in terms of what it offered. The coaches did get me interested just pointing out that Vassar is a great, competitive school in terms of academics and athletics,” he explained. “It ended up being my ideal school.”
Mazzuca’s goal coming into the program was simply to make the team better. “I really wanted to be part of that turning chapter where Vassar became more than just a ninth place finisher, thirteenth place finisher at Regionals,” he said. “I wanted to be part of that team that qualified for Nationals for the first time ever. That was also something that really inspired me to come here—there are already key runners on the team, and I think that they needed a few more people here and there to add depth to it, and that’s something I’m really proud of: to be part of that.”
Mazzuca has helped the team finish second of eleven teams at the annual Ron Stonitsch Invitational. He finished second overall in the 6k course with a time of 19:42:28—a time that was the best for Vassar men’s cross country in more than ten years, earning him his first Liberty League Rookie of the Week title. At the Saratoga Invitational on Sept. 20, the men finished in sixth place out of fifteen teams despite missing some key players. In the 8k, Mazzuca led the team, finishing in second place overall. Next, at the Geneseo Invitational, Mazzuca finished fifth overall, beating his previous 8k personal best time at 25:42:4. Finally, at the Connecticut College Cross Country Invitational, he finished 10th place overall out of 247 runners in the 8k, making him the second fastest freshman of the day with a final time of 25:42.
Senior co-captain Sean Majer acknowledged that Mazzuca has been a huge asset to the team. “Fredo is incredibly ambitious and a solid addition to the program. He has certainly bolstered our lineup and helped make the team a much more formidable force in our region,” Majer wrote in an emailed statement. “[Mazzuca’s] performances at multiple races, in particular the Saratoga Invitational and Geneseo Pre-Regionals, have made him stand out as a fierce competitor and certainly made him deserving of his recent accolades.”
Mazzuca acknowledged senior captains Majer and Lisle Schaeffer. “They’re definitely like father figures to me—just really always there for me. I trust them,” he said. “They’ve really pushed me to become a better runner. Seeing them and remembering that this is what its all about: going through these four years or three years and enjoying cross country reminds me why I’m here.”
With three years remaining on the cross country team, Mazzuca has a lot of goals for his Vassar athletic career. “I think my biggest aspiration is just making it to Nationals with my team. Knowing that we did it, finally, and hopefully we can. I think that we have a tight enough team that we can trust each other and we know that we can make it,” he said. “I think that we’re on the brink of success, so we have to see what happens from there.”