This year, The Miscellany News allowed the Vassar constituency to vote for their favorite Athlete of the Year. After over 600 votes, the two winners are freshman Alfredo Mazzuca from cross country and senior Margaret Kwateng from women’s rugby.
As a member of the cross country and track teams, Mazzuca experienced early success, finishing first at the second meet of the season. He has been named Rookie of the Week five times. After Liberty League Championships, where he placed 35th out of 275 runners, he was named All-Atlantic Region and gained First Team All-Liberty League honors. Along the way, he has broken a school record by seven seconds.
Mazzuca discovered his talent for running in middle school. “One of my coaches, who would end up being my coach throughout high school, dragged me in and he saw that I had a certain potential for running. I, at that point, just wanted to try something new,” he said. “It sparked my interest in running and it just blossomed from there.” Mazzuca already knew of Vassar’s cross country team before attending, and its goals to get perennial representation at Nationals. Mazzuca wanted to help the team to achieve those goals. “My belief is that when your love for the team overcomes your love of winning, that’s when the team will know success,” he said. “That just speaks in itself because it shows that a cohesive effort by the team at the end of the day is more successful—and much more satisfying—than an individual goal. The team’s success always comes first.”
Mazzuca’s passion for cross country stems from his love of being outdoors. “If I have some spare time I’ll just go for a jog and explore a bit,” he explained. “Cross Country is outdoorsy too, so there’s that liberty to run wherever you want.” Mazzuca is currently on a pre-med track at Vassar, with a strong preference for neuroscience. “I’m not sure if that’s what I’ll pursue, but I’m definitely interested in the field. One of my friends who initially inspired me to run actually had his career cut short by an injury. That sparked my interest, because I dislike seeing passions stripped away from people just because of physical or mental injury.” Mazzuca is also enrolled in a tennis course at Vassar, along with Italian courses, although he is already a fluent speaker.
Mazzuca is content with his level of success thus far, but will continue pushing. “It’s an indicator of where I’m at,” he said regarding his awards. “I’m very honored to have received so many awards my freshman year, but I think that putting those aside, I always like to focus on individual improvement. And also getting to that point where I’m satisfied with where the team is at and I can say ‘I’ve provided enough to the team so they can become successful.’” As for gauging his own success, Mazzuca leaves it up to the reader to determine. “It’s your own opinion,” he said. “I’m not sure how to compare years past, but I think that each of us has added a new dynamic to the team. And hopefully my dynamic has been positive in its effect.”
While Mazzuca runs past the farm, he will most likely pass by a rugby match, where senior Margaret Kwateng makes her mark as a female athlete on Vassar’s campus. Kwateng has been on the women’s rugby team for her four years at Vassar College and holds the school record for most tries in a single season. “I wanted to play a sport in college and as I wasn’t quite talented enough to play the ones I had played in high school here, so I thought about going out to rugby,” Kwateng wrote in an emailed statement. “I didn’t really know much about it at first, but thought I would go to a practice and try it out.”
Kwateng expressed that her time on the rugby team reshaped her experience at Vassar College. “Rugby has definitely been a grounding force during my time at Vassar. I’m very close with a number of my teammates, and we have stood by one another through a lot,” she wrote. “I think the role Vassar rugby has played in my life has shifted from being the only thing I do, to being one of a number of things I do, but it has remained very important to me.” Kwateng also described how rugby changed her perception about being a female athlete. “As a woman who was socialized to ‘play nice,’ it has felt good to not always be responsible for everyone else’s feelings, to get a little dirty, and to be a little mean,” explained Kwateng. “What’s cool about rugby is that you can hit hard during the game yet still be friendly with your opponents afterward, and I think that attests to the fact that it is a place of release for all of us.”
Outside of the rugby team, Kwateng is a Science, Technology and Society major. She also is the co-president of the Multiracial Biracial Student Organization (MBSA) with fellow rugby player and senior Natalie Ward, as well as being heavily involved in an anti-foreclosure organization in Poughkeepsie called Nobody-Leaves Mid Hudson. Kwateng explained the program and her involvement with it. “Our goal is to educate, support and organize homeowners who are in danger of losing their homes to foreclosure, and recently we have had some major victories,” she wrote. “It is really exciting to be a part of the transformation that takes place when people fight back against corrupt systems, a quality I think rugby has fostered, and I am happy to say that I will be spending at least another year in Poughkeepsie after graduation working with the organization.”
Looking back at her four years at Vassar in which the Vassar Women’s team collected 50 wins, Kwateng admits that this season may have been her favorite one. “The fall season feels a little bit like a dream because it just kept going, but I couldn’t not have asked for a better senior season. I think about the beginning of the season and being on the sidelines when we got crushed by Marist and then later being in the game when we got beaten by Albany, and I can’t believe that was the same team that ended the year,” Kwateng explained. “By the end all of the things that make us a great team started to show through: we knew our roles and performed them well, we had patterns and structures that we worked hard to perfect, and we weren’t afraid of contact. That’s another thing that rugby has taught me, to not be afraid.”