Cassidy Fife named MCC student commencement speaker
Around campus, Cassidy Fife is known as “Miss McCook” because of how involved she’s become – particularly in her sophomore year. Not surprisingly, “Miss McCook” has been named McCook Community College’s 2023 student commencement speaker. Commencement is Friday starting at 10 a.m. at the Peter and Dolores Graff Events Center.
“I’ve met a lot of great people here that have really made it so fun,” she said. “I’ve loved my two years here and am honored to share some thoughts about my time.”
This won’t be Cassidy’s first commencement speech. She was her high school’s commencement speaker as well. While she’s given a lot to her school, she knows the school and the community gave her a lot too.
When she graduated from Provo High School in Utah, her goal was to play softball collegiately somewhere in the Midwest. She came to McCook on a recruiting visit – admittedly because it was geographically between other colleges that were higher priority destinations.
“I saw the town, saw the school and it just felt like home from the very beginning,” she said. “Right away I knew this was it.”
Considering she came from a high school with 2,000 students in suburban Provo, surrounded by mountains and outdoor culture, McCook hardly resembled the home she knew, but she said McCook had everything she needed. Her family is supportive of her choice, visits when then can and enjoys McCook just as much as she does.
“As a recruit, my approach was that if you went somewhere and got hurt or became ineligible or unable to play - you had to be able to continue being a student and continue on your path and live in that city and enjoy it,” she said.
She arrived on campus as a freshman looking forward to the fall scrimmage season, traveling and games. Because of a shortage of healthy pitchers, MCC was unable to schedule any competitive fall games. So, she did have to just live in McCook with no real competitive softball, and her plan worked out.
“I really enjoyed coming to a school where you instantly have 20 girls that become your friends,” Fife said, “That’s what comes with sports – and knowing I was going to have people to hang out with, study with, whatever, that’s an important support system.”
The team dynamic is something she enjoyed from the very beginning. The team stayed busy off the field working the concession stands at volleyball and basketball games, getting involved in other events such as Trunk-Or-Treat, marching in the Heritage Days Parade, Santa’s Workshop and activities around town. She credits last year’s sophomores for helping the team bond despite lack of games – and she remembers how much that helped her.
When the second semester began, the pitching situation was resolved, and the team set off on a record-setting season journey. Fife traveled on the bus to road games, maintained her studies and played in front of fans at home. But, she wasn’t seeing a lot of playing time. Through the first 47 games she had just 18 at bats and started just a handful of games.
She tried to take advantage of the opportunities she did have. And she was never one to stay quiet on the bench. No matter how hard things got along the way or how busy she was, “Miss McCook” liked to keep a smile on everybody’s face.
“Sometimes you just need to enjoy where you are and find the humor,” she said.
By the end of the season, a few players had left the team, and others were injured. Fife had her opportunity.
With MCC pushing for the school’s first ever Region IX regular season championship on the final weekend series of the season, Fife made it into the starting lineup. Later, she ripped a home run in the title-clinching win against Western Nebraska. She started nine of the team’s final 11 games, including all three games of the Region IX tournament and the sub-regional game.
Her sophomore teammates paved the way for her to follow their paths as leaders on the field, in the classroom and on campus. She’d been involved in many activities in high school - to the point she was burning out. So, at McCook she didn’t get as involved as a freshman, but she knew she’d be able to do it if she put her mind to it.
“I was scared to move into a leadership role again, but I definitely felt it was a path that would be good for me,” Fife said.
She applied to become a resident hall assistant and did. She ran for and was elected Student Senate president. She became part of Phi Theta Kappa, was named a softball team captain and took on another campus job and leadership role with the college’s safety and security department,
She said it was a difficult wake-up call realizing how much she was asked to do, but she figured out what she could realistically handle and what and when she needed to delegate.
On top of all that, over the summer, her former coach Kevin Kaalberg took a job at another college and when classes began in August there were only eight softball players on campus. Some of the interim duties naturally fell to the four returning players and interim assistant Rachel Conroy – until Mike Mendenhall was hired in late October.
“That was stressful for all of us, but I’m glad I did take all of that on,” Fife said. “It’s definitely a character development thing, and I wouldn’t change anything.”
This year, as a starter she played in 54 games and batted .324 with four home runs and 41 RBIs, on a team that struggled early but went on to win 31 games.
After graduating, Fife plans to attend Bellevue University online and get her bachelor’s degree in public health with a focus on personal development and social issues within the community.
“The college and community are great, and I’ve loved my teammates over these past two years,” Fife said. “They’ve been my family here.”