LATHAM, N.Y. – The fourth installment of this springs' North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) Student-Athlete Spotlight features Penn State Harrisburg men's soccer student-athlete Oscar Cartagena.
This year's student-athlete spotlight has senior student-athletes from all 12 NEAC institutions writing a letter to themselves as freshmen.
Cartagena tells his younger self that he will fulfill his dream of playing collegiate soccer at a respected institution and will succeed at facing challenges of a demanding schedule and learning how to become a responsible, young adult.
Along the way, he'll make new friends and regard his teammates as family. He'll battle through a bloody injury, score his first collegiate goal, become a team captain, and celebrate as the Lions would go on to win a regular season title, a conference championship and qualify for the NCAA Tournament.
Cartagena acknowledges all the support he received along the way, challenged himself to continue to strive toward greatness and to not forget that he has the heart of a Lion.
Oscar's full letter is below his video.
Dear freshman Oscar,
I'd like to congratulate you for all your hard work and dedication to the sport that you love. You have officially fulfilled a dream by being recruited to play college soccer at a respected institution that is Penn State University in Harrisburg. However, as you begin your journey as a young Nittany Lion you will face many challenges. You will no longer be able to see your family everyday like you used to in high school. You will be thousands of miles away from home and must adjust to a demanding schedule that would affect your personal and social life. Aside from that, you will also have to learn to be a responsible young adult and take fault on your own actions. I know you may be scared and filled with excitement as you start this new chapter in your life; yet, deep down inside you know that it is necessary to become a better man.
As you begin your freshman year, you will be the first and only recruit of the 2016 class and the new head coach's first ever recruit at Penn State Harrisburg. The coach will go up to and say, "you are the future of this program and you belong here." Immediately, you were given the responsibility to help recreate a team culture that throughout the years has become a respected winning program with a mentality of pride in hard work. As you try to adjust on the team you slowly begin to make friends who throughout the years you will be able to call your brothers. Your teammates will become your family away from home and support you throughout your collegiate career. Although you fulfilled a dream of playing collegiate soccer, you knew deep down inside you wanted more. You wanted to win a collegiate title and be part of the very first team to make it to the NCAA Tournament.
With that goal in mind, you knew it began with you. As you enter your sophomore year you experience many physical and mental challenges to overcome. In a game, you will have a head on head collision with an opponent and have an open wound filled with blood drenched on your sweat and uniform. That same day you will be forced to get six stiches while blood is smearing all over your number 12 jersey. No matter the injury, you got back up and kept playing. You made a clear statement to your teammates that you must give your all to protect the Nittany Lion badge.
While you reach your final two years of college, many of your closest friends and personal relationships will be jeopardized because many want you to live the normal college life. You will be invited to many parties, birthdays and get togethers but unfortunately you can't go. Your dedication and commitment to get proper rest to go to 6 a.m. training the next morning is vital. I know it may have been hard because you wanted to enjoy your college experience; yet, deep down inside you were committed to greatness and knew that one day you would be repaid.
Once you make it to your senior year, your fellow teammates recognize your leadership and vote you as team captain. You take that position with a lot of honor and pride by helping your team reach many milestones the program had never endured before. Your leadership qualities were so unique that the moment you scored your very first collegiate goal the whole team ran to celebrate with you and later led to a Gatorade dunk for your achievements. As the season went on you were able to lead and be part of the most historic season of the Penn State Harrisburg men's soccer program. Your team and you win the NEAC Regular Season Title and host the NEAC Playoffs while also winning the 2019 NEAC Tournament. The program had officially qualified for the NCAA Tournament and your legacy had been marked.
As you reach your graduation, I urge you to reflect on all the accomplishments and hard work. But most importantly to acknowledge all the people that supported you throughout the journey. Thank your coaches, family, athletic trainers, teammates, professors and friends that supported you and helped you become the young adult you are today. I challenge you to continue working for greatness and never forget that you a have a heart of a Nittany Lion.
Your senior self