Susan Kassey - 2018 Connecticut Masters' Games Athlete of the Year
“In honor of my late parents, Mr. & Mrs. George Kassey Jr.; I would like to thank them for giving me life. They instilled compassion, respect and work ethic in me.” - Susan Kassey
As Susan Kassey lifts herself onto her blocks, she looks forward and visualizes herself crossing the finish line. As she steadies her breathing, a look of determination covers her face. Her muscles begin to swell as she rises - visual proof of her daily training and hard work. As a police officer at UConn Health in Farmington, Connecticut, Kassey is no stranger to a strong state of focus, but out on the track it is different.
Born and raised in New Britain, Susan threw shotput and javelin for New Britain High and in 1979 Susan received All American status in Volleyball . Her athletic career, however, was put on hold when she lost her father at age 15. “My father was my biggest fan, and after he died my focus was on the home rather than sports” Kassey said in a 2014 interview with the Hartford Courant. After high school she went into the workforce, working for the State of CT in the Department of Mental Retardation (DMR) at the Hartford Regional Center. Working with mentally and physically disabled adults, her compassion and skills were quickly recognized and she was promoted to supervisor of a group home in Rocky Hill. In 1995 Kassey left the (DMR) and was hired by the Avon Police Department. In 2006, after the Avon Mountain crash, sent to the Massachusetts State Police for training and became the first municipal female police officer to become certified to inspect Commercial Motor Vehicles and she was the only one on the Avon PD force to do so. After being nominated for Female Officer of the year in 2007, she received an official commendation Governor Jodi Rell for Outstanding Service for Truck Enforcement in Avon and surrounding towns in 2008 and earned the Public Servant of the Year award in 2010. “Keeping everybody safe. Wanting them to get home at night to their loved ones. That’s what drives me” she said in an interview with WFSB Channel 3 News in 2015. As if her career success hadn’t kept Susan busy enough, she volunteered for Hospice 2007-2011, was on the Salvation Army committee 2011-2013 and earned the Salvation Army Holiday award. Since the 9/11 tragedy, Susan was instrumental in developing a ceremony in Farmington to remember the fallen. Former Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman has been in attendance almost every year.
At the time of the 2014 Hartford Courant interview, Kassey was training for the CT Masters’ Games. Despite keeping in shape during her time as a police officer in Avon, she had not actually competed in an event in over 35 years. “..to my surprise I am doing well” – she also said in the interview. “Well” is an understatement. For the past four years, Kassey has competed in various track and field events at the state, national, and international levels, including five Nutmeg State Games. Kassey currently holds 45 medals in events such as shot put, javelin, long jump, 50-meter dash, 55-meter dash, and 100-meter dash. She holds records for long jump at the World Police and Fire Games and at the 2015 in Fairfax, VA, she took the Gold in shotput over England and Brazil as well as in long jump over Australia and Brazil. Additionally, according to the World Masters Rankings, Kassey is an All-American athlete who is ranked second in the world for her 2017 indoor 55-meter dash along with other Top Five rankings nationally for the 2017 indoor and outdoor seasons. Plans are well underway for Susan to compete in the 2019 World Police & Fire Games in Chengdu, China.
Even with Kassey's numerous accolades, she has never lost sight of what it truly means to be an athlete: having drive, discipline, determination, commitment, and most importantly respect for the journey and those involved. Although Kassey runs to be an example for others as she participates to better herself as an athlete and a person, she ultimately competes in memory of her father. In 2015, Kassey proudly wore her father's American flag when she won gold. It is that memory that keeps Kassey grounded in what she is doing and drives her to help others to do the same.
On any competition day you will see Kassey introducing herself to other athletes as she learns why they compete. She approaches others with a huge smile and a look in her eyes that shows she is genuinely interested in hearing their stories. Once she learns a new name, she will not forget it. She can even be seen giving advice to those around her as she tries to share techniques that have helped her, even if she is giving winning advice to someone within her own age group.
Kassey takes this passion for helping others to Platt High School in Meriden where she trains with Coach George Gilhuly; however, she quickly changed from the role of a student to that of a mentor as she began to help work with the high school students he trains. Not only does Kassey help students perfect their shot put techniques, but she also helps students get the equipment they need and raises money for students to travel around the country to compete in national track meets. It is because of her teamwork with Coach Gilhuly that these students are provided with opportunities to pave their own futures. Her effect on these students was shown at this year's Nutmeg State Games where a group of her students came to cheer her on and show their support much like Kassey does for them during the school year. You can see how much of a positive change she has made in their lives as they root for her from the stands. For Kassey, these are not just events in which to compete, but rather are celebrations of the athletes' hard work and commitment to the sport in a community about which she cares so deeply.
Susan Kassey consistently exemplifies the true meaning of what it means to be an athlete each time she steps out onto a track. Her dedication is shown daily; each bead of sweat dripping down her forehead is a symbol of her passion seeping through her pores. Not only is she a talented athlete, but she is an incredible human who strives to help others chasing their dreams. It is an honor and a pleasure to award Officer Susan Kassey for the coveted award of the Nutmeg State Games Athlete of the Year.