Chase Cayo laughed at the irony of what he was about to say.
“It’s funny The Last Dance came out this year, that’s a lot like what’s going on here.”
The SDSU cross country and track and field standout, who is eight inches shorter and about 65 pounds lighter than Michael Jordan, wasn’t comparing himself or his athletic prowess to the NBA all-time great. Rather, Cayo drew a connection between his current situation and the one that unfolded in The Last Dance, the 10-part ESPN documentary series released in April.
The tale of Jordan’s journey with the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls to capture yet another title in what would be his last season with the team struck a chord with the St. Michael, Minnesota native who enters the 2020-21 academic year ready for his own “last dance.”
Cayo elected to use the extra year of eligibility granted by the NCAA due to the coronavirus pandemic and will return for one more (and final) outdoor track season in the spring of 2021.
“This is really it for me,” Cayo said. “It has to be.”
“I just hope people can wear their face coverings and give us a real chance to compete,” he said concernedly. “I don’t want to lose out on my senior season for the second time.”
Like Jordan, the three-time Summit League individual champion is putting big goals ahead of his final go with the team.
Cayo holds the titles of 2017 Summit League cross country champion, 2018 indoor track and field champion in the 5,000 and outdoor champion in the 10,000. He carries five team titles under his belt (four in cross country, one in indoor track and field) and marked a fourth place finish in the 2019 Summit League Cross Country Championships to push his team to a perfect score of 15 and secure the fourth consecutive conference title for the Jacks.
Even with all those accolades though, Cayo is still looking for one more thing— something he’s worked for since he first came to Brookings.
The cap Cayo is looking to put on his career? A spot on the starting line of the 10,000 at the NCAA Track & Field Championships.
“My goal has always been to make it through that first round of regionals and make it to the NCAA meet at Hayward Field,” said Cayo.
“When I came in as a freshman, I always wanted to make it to the national meet. It was a conversation Rod and I had… that I would make it my ultimate goal to make it to that final meet. And I haven’t done it yet,” he added.
Headed into the season with a lofty goal in mind, Cayo points his attention and training towards the 10,000.
“I want to keep climbing those top-10 lists during my last season,” said Cayo who currently holds SDSU’s No. 4 all-time mark in the 10,000.
To help him get to where he wants to be, Cayo continues to count on his teammates and coaches.
“I look forward to having another year of training with those guys,” said Cayo. “We’ll be able to continue pushing each other and building every day.”
Even if it wasn’t for running, Cayo still thinks returning to SDSU for a master’s degree was the right decision.
“What’s one more year of school compared to 40-50 more of working,” he said laughingly.
The graduate student will be earning his degree in education, curriculum and instruction with a specialization in secondary education in hopes of becoming a high school coach someday.
“This program is really nice because it allows me to student teach, train and still get my degree,” said Cayo.
Ahead of his final stint with the Jacks, Cayo spends his summer working with students grades 2-6, offering what he hopes is their first of many dances with the sport of track and field.
Through a community track and field club he started himself five years ago, Cayo says kids in the club learn the fundamentals of and participate in events like sprinting, softball throwing and distance running up to 800 meters, all while being introduced to a sport they can enjoy for life.
For those looking to run a little farther, Cayo also works with students ready to enter their middle school cross country careers through another community program, this one more cross country oriented, focusing on things like stretching, core strength and longer distance running.
Cayo works day after day to solidify himself as a Jackrabbit great, putting in hundreds of miles of training over the course of the summer with one ultimate goal in mind.
Make it to Eugene, Oregon.
A for Jordan, the Bulls would eventually go on to take the 1998 NBA title in his last dance, putting an end to one of the all-time careers in Chicago. Cayo’s last dance has yet to begin, but he’s optimistic it will and he hopes to solidify his place among SDSU greats.
More than anything though, Cayo says he’s just blessed to be able to compete again and spend another year at SDSU.