Q&A with Freshman Student-Athlete Janis Cava
Freshman Janis Cava probably had one of the most unusual combinations of experiences for any first-year student-athlete at Case Western Reserve University. How so? Well, her last nine months included wildlife hunting, bullpen catching, an appointment as treasurer of the Case College Republicans and a three-week trip to South East Asia. And, it is likely that her involvement in such a diverse collection of activities contributed to Janis having a successful first year in University Circle.
Janis joined the CWRU community after spending her entire life in Menomonee Falls, a small village of just around 3,200 residents located outside Milwaukee. Coming from “a big fish in a small pond” type situation, Janis had to do quite a bit of adapting. But, her past experiences and enthusiastic attitude made it all possible as she was voted by her teammates as the Spartan Spirit Award winner and also received a Spartan Scholar-Athlete award for her outstanding academic performance as a statistics major.
In this edition of Spartan Spotlight, Janis talks about what drew her to Case Western Reserve, her history as a wildlife hunter, her recent trip to South East Asia, and her experiences as a first-year student-athlete.
Coming from a small village like Menomonee Falls, what attracted you to Case Western Reserve both from an academic point-of-view and also from a softball standpoint?
“I first learned about Case Western Reserve via mail and decided to look into the school since it was Division III and highly respected academically. After a couple of recruiting visits, I decided Case was the best option for me because I could keep competitive softball a part of my life while still having time for academics. I also was impressed by the amount of chemistry between the girls on the team when I visited, and it is even better this year -- way to go freshmen! Overall, our team is just awesome, both on and off the field.”
You have some interesting hobbies, one of them being hunting. How do you become involved in hunting, and what are some of your best hunting memories growing up?
“My dad and his friends have went hunting in Montana every fall for as long as I can remember. My freshman year in high school, I decided to join them, and it was one of the best decisions of my life. We hunt upland birds and pronghorns out in Montana every fall. Hunting gives me a chance to be with family and have a fun and relaxing time. After walking through grassy fields for an hour, there is nothing more exhilarating than when your bird dog goes on point, a rooster flies into the air and you thank God that a hard day will finish with a delicious home-cooked meal.”
How did you become involved so heavily with the College Republicans in your first year on campus?
“I love Case College Republicans. I first came to campus as an apathetic college student, having no interest in politics whatsoever. However, after constant nagging from a good friend of mine, I started going to every meeting that I could, and I am now going to be the treasurer for the club in the upcoming academic year. Republican Club gives me a chance to learn about, and act on, important issues that can directly affect my future. I have also made a great group of friends through my involvement.”
Head Coach Josie Henry mentioned you come from a large family. Describe your family and how that impacted your decision to leave home and attend Case Western Reserve.
“I am the second of five kids. My older sister attends the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, about a two hour drive from where we live. She is studying to be an ornithologist and plans to also get a Ph.D. in the field. My other siblings are in 4th, 7th, and 8th grade. My 4th grade sister is on a competitive cheerleading team, my 7th grade brother spends most of his free time playing video games, and my 8th grade sister has done a little of pretty much everything. As you can see, we have a strange mix of hobbies and that is just the way we like it. My family has always been about doing what you want as long as you are responsible and make smart decisions. The same went for me in going to college. I chose where to apply and, in the end, where to attend school with my family supporting me the whole way.”
How did you end up in South East Asia over Christmas Break? And, what was that experience like?
“Over break, my aunt took me on vacation to Laos and Thailand as a late high school graduation present. It was one of the best and most unique experiences of my life. We were there for three weeks with an English-speaking tour guide. We started on a cruise down the Mekong River and stopped along some native villages on the mountainsides along the way. We also walked around different cities like Luang Prabang and Vientiane and visited many Buddhist temples. One morning, we even got up at dawn to give alms to the monks. Alms are offerings of food, generally sticky rice and an occasional piece of fruit, which the townspeople give to the monks every morning and that is what they eat for the rest of the day. It was humbling to see how poor people in these places were, yet they worked hard to make a living and were some of the happiest people I have ever met.”
Coach Henry described you as an integral part of her team serving as her bullpen catcher. What has been the biggest transition from the high school game to the collegiate side of it? What can you learn from this year and take with you into next year and beyond?
“For me, the biggest change was my mental attitude. I was the ‘big fish in a little pond’ back home, and I came to Case as only a little freshman. I was, and still am, stunned by the amount of talent on our team and it took a while to find my place. What I did learn is that your mental game is everything and it is contagious, especially for a team sport. So no matter what position you play, do it with enthusiasm, heart and a little swagger.”
Note: “Spartan Spotlight” is a bi-weekly to monthly series that highlights a Case Western Reserve University student-athlete and his/her exploits on and off the playing field. The series is meant to provide an inside look at the unique backgrounds of Spartan student-athletes and show what it takes to succeed athletically and academically at one of the nation’s premier research institutions.