The "Senior Spotlight" series is a collection of stories of Columbia's senior student-athletes in their final semester as Lions. Originally published in Lions Den, below is a profile on senior field hockey and lacrosse star, Caitlin Mullins.
Caitlin Mullins arrived at Morningside Heights in the summer of 2007 eager to start her field hockey preseason. Having met former head coach and assistant coach Wendy Andreatta, Mullins admired the way the two coaches approached the game, ultimately drawing her to Columbia.
"When I came and saw the school for the first time, such an incredible campus in the heart of the city, and met the girls on the team, I knew it would be a great fit," Mullins explained.
Her first year on the field hockey team was an exciting one as the Lions finished 11-6 overall and 5-2 in the Ivy League for a second place finish - the highest in program history. Mullins was a key contributor that year, playing in 14 games and making 11 starts on defense.
The off-season included spring practice and conditioning, but something was missing for Mullins - she missed the competition. It was then that she began to realize that she was missing something else. That missing piece was lacrosse.
"I never thought I would play lacrosse in college," said Mullins. "I was really surprised when I started to miss the game, but I did. As much as the off-season was a great time to train and practice with the field hockey team, I missed being able to compete against other teams during the spring. After talking to my field hockey coach about the pluses and minuses of joining a second team, we realized a lot of the skills would transfer from one sport to another, and it's a great way of staying in shape."
Following another successful field hockey season where she started all 17 games and finished with four goals, Mullins was ready to take on a new challenge. She returned to the sport of lacrosse as a walk-on after a year and a half hiatus. "It definitely took some adjusting getting back into lacrosse," explained Mullins. "With a lot of help from my teammates and coaches, I eventually found my groove on the lacrosse field."
The game quickly came back to her and it was as if she never missed a beat. For Mullins, the real adjustment of being a two-sport student-athlete as opposed to a one-sport student-athlete came off the field. "The biggest challenge was balancing my academic schedule," Mullins said. "My freshman year I was able to take a lighter course load when I was in-season with field hockey, and then a more challenging schedule in the spring during my off-season. When I was in season both semesters of the year, I had to plan ahead so that my academic demands for the fall and spring were more consistent."
"Caitlin Mullins is a special player, and by far one of the most selfless athletes I've ever worked with," head lacrosse coach Liz Kittleman said. "In many ways, she is the brains of our program - someone we can count on both on the field and off for sound advice and intelligent insight. She will be missed in the years to come but her dedication to this team will remain a model for those who will follow in her footsteps."
Her field hockey coach, Marybeth Freeman, echoed those sentiments. "Caitlin Mullins is one of the most well rounded, genuine and cool headed student-athletes I have ever had the privilege of working with. Though I only had the opportunity to work with her for one season, she is the type of player you wish you could clone; tactful, willing, and coach-able. Her calm demeanor, positive outlook and approachability made her a terrific captain during our 2010 campaign."
Though its been trying at times, in the end, she couldn't imagine it any other way. "I am so grateful for the amazing friendships I have made over the past four years. Spending so much time together creates incredible relationships, and I'm fortunate enough to have had two teams worth of amazing student-athletes to play with."
So what do you do when you graduate after being a two-sport athlete at an Ivy League institution? Many just want a rest. For Mullins, she is looking for the next challenge to take on.
"I want to do research on autism. After taking a few years to work in a lab, I will hopefully attend graduate school to earn my PhD in neuroscience." Based on her four years as a student-athlete at Columbia, there is no doubt that she will tackle this next opportunity with great enthusiasm and passion.