Cassandra Lloyd & Steven Bognar, '86

Cassandra Lloyd

Cassandra’s Crescendo
By Seth Bauguess

Crescendo: 1. A gradual increase in the volume of sound. 2. A steady increase in intensity or force.

The moment had arrived, and this time Cassandra Lloyd was ready. Ready to make up for near misses at regionals as an underclassman, ready to run focused but loose, ready to claim her spot at nationals.

Before settling into the blocks in Bloomington, Ind., at last year’s NCAA East Regional, Lloyd, a junior Wright State hurdler at the time, said a little prayer and then unleashed all of her preparation, technique, sinewy strength, and explosive athleticism.

“I really wasn’t paying any attention to anyone else that day,” said Lloyd. “I just went.”

Just before the race began, everything went silent for a beat in time.

With a gunshot, Wright State’s first Division 1 All-American exploded from her crouched position. Staying low in her start, Lloyd pushed low and hard in her drive phase for her first five strides before arising fully erect just as she reached the first hurdle.

She cleared the aluminum obstacle in a blur of flailing limbs, and the race was on.

Three steps, jump, three steps, jump, repeating the same motions almost unconsciously, clearing the last hurdle and sprinting upright to the finish. Feeling as if the moment itself carried her through, it was almost an out-of-body experience.

Lloyd notched her best-recorded time in her strongest event, the 100-meter hurdles.

“I don’t know how that happened,” said Lloyd. “I was just thinking, let’s do this. I really wanted to make it to nationals, so I said to myself, just get in these blocks and go out,” said Lloyd.

That day Lloyd got a great start, but she was nowhere close to finished.

Fueled by sour memories of watching upperclassmen take her spot the previous two years, Lloyd and Wright State Track and Field Coach Fabien Corbillon had been building her training regimen, her crescendo of practice and preparation all year—counting down the 365 days, 8,760 hours, and 525,600 seconds for that one event.

Lloyd needed only 13.18 seconds to punch her ticket to nationals.

Lloyd is undoubtedly Wright State’s greatest track star of all time and may be the university’s finest athlete ever.

The Springfield South product comes from a basketball family and seemed destined to excel in the sport but decided to also try her hand at track in high school. It’s safe to say she found her niche with hurdles.

Lloyd finished her high school career as a Division 1 state champion in the 100-meter hurdles and began her college career with a flurry, winning the league title in the same event. She was ultimately named the Horizon League Newcomer of the Year as a freshman.

Last year, as a junior, she was named the Horizon League Track Athlete of the Year for both indoor and outdoor after setting school records in the 60- and 100-meter hurdles. Lloyd has never lost a hurdle event at the Horizon League championships and has accumulated six indoor and outdoor titles in three years. Lloyd placed 14th in the 100-meter hurdles at nationals last year and led Wright State to its best finish ever in the league, fourth place.

In her final year at Wright State, Cassandra’s crescendo is being built toward a goal one step further than last year. “I want to be up on that podium,” said Lloyd.

The top eight at the outdoor nationals get a spot on the podium. And in her senior year, few will bet against Lloyd getting there.

When asked what she wants to accomplish this year, Lloyd, humble but confident, ticked off her goals like she was reading a grocery list.

“I want to make it to the indoor nationals in the 60-meter hurdles. In outdoor I want to run under 13 seconds in the 100-meter hurdles,” Lloyd said.

“I think that’s attainable,” she added with a change in tone that reminds you just how routine this conversation has become for her. “I want to make it to the top eight at the outdoor championships.  I also want to make it to the Olympic trials.”

The suggestion of an Olympic push murmurs in the background of Lloyd’s more immediate goals, but it is linked to what appears to be attainable success. If she finishes in the top eight at nationals, it’s likely she will be invited to the Olympic trials.

“I don’t see why she couldn’t get any faster because for the past three years she has improved a lot every year,” Corbillon said. “Does she surprise me every year? She sure does.”

Corbillon, a French transplant in America with a thick accent that seems appropriate when talking about the international competition, was willing to talk about the Olympics, but says Lloyd still has much to improve.

“Technically she is nowhere where I’d like her to be,” Corbillon said. “To me, she’s the slowest fast hurdler I’ve ever seen in my life.”

Noting Lloyd’s ability to markedly improve each year, Corbillon said it’s her sprint technique that still holds her back, particularly Lloyd’s propensity for popping up too fast in her start and getting tight in the shoulders during a race. The result is a chain reaction that throws off her lower body’s efficiency, slowing her sprint. Corbillon said that up to this point, she’s been able to make up for it with superb hurdling ability.

“But she should be way faster than she is on the 60-meter dash and the 100-meter dash. She’s often half a second slower than hurdlers on her level on the flat, and there is no reason for that,” Corbillon said.

Confronted with this all-too familiar critique from “Coach Fabe,” as Lloyd calls him, she took it all in stride.

“Coach Fabien says you are the slowest fast hurdler he’s ever seen,” I shared.

“I don’t know why, but I am,” Lloyd laughed with a warm and inviting smile.

“In high school I never really focused on sprinting. They just said, go do these hurdles, so that’s what I did. My sprint form is just all messed up. We’re trying to work on that,” said Lloyd, laughing again.

As Lloyd has figured out how to work, her times keep getting a trim.

Her freshman year she improved in the 100-meter hurdles by .4 seconds. She shaved off another .4 seconds in the event her sophomore year and then another .3 seconds last year.

If she takes it down another .3 seconds her senior year, she will begin to join the ranks of some of the fastest hurdlers in the world.

“Does she have a shot to make it to the Olympic team this year? Probably not,” Corbillon said.  In his estimation, that would require her to run in the 12.50s, 12.60s in the 100-meter hurdles, and they both said they will be happy if she runs under 13 seconds.”

But Corbillon said not to worry.

“She’s basically the perfect age, because as a senior she’s just about out of college and she can get ready for four years focusing only on that for the next Olympics in 2016, Rio de Janeiro,” Corbillon said.

Corbillon added that Lloyd is perhaps the easiest athlete he’s ever coached because she is simply terrified of failure. The two stay in close contact even in the off season, and many times Lloyd will send Corbillon video clips of track stars like Lolo Jones and Gail Devers, asking if he thinks she can duplicate their start, how they hit the first hurdle, and how they finish.

As the outdoor track season approaches, Lloyd’s focus is trained on the podium at nationals. She and “Coach Fabe” are building her crescendo to that one moment in time. Who knows what might happen after that?

“Anything is possible. I think it’s (getting on the podium at nationals) attainable,” Lloyd said. “I’m getting faster and faster every day. I’ve been hurdling for seven or eight years now, and I’m still learning different things. I still have things I need to improve on, but that’s good because once I do improve, my times will continue to drop.”

Expect few hurdlers to get the drop on Lloyd in 2012.

Steven Bognar B.F.A. in Motion Pictures, ’86

Steven Bognar has been making movies since he was a teenager. Around the age of 14 or 15, he discovered a Super 8 movie camera in his parents’ hall closet.

“I started coming of age in the late 1970s, and punk rock was a really big thing back then. But I couldn’t play any music,” he recalled. “My friends and I—instead of forming a band—we started making movies. We discovered the sheer joy of running around suburbia and filming really stupid, little movies. It was huge, creative fun.”   

Bognar may not have known the rules of filmmaking at the time, but he developed a love for the medium he has never lost. He learned the art of his craft after enrolling in Wright State’s motion pictures program.

“Bill Lafferty and Chuck Derry are the people who really taught me about film as an art form, as something that impacts culture and society,” said Bognar. “The great thing about the motion pictures program is that it values history, criticism and theory as much as it does production. And I think that was a crucial part of my developing an ability to have a critical mind and be articulate.”

While taking Ron Geibert’s photography class, Bognar discovered The Americans, a book by Robert Frank that changed his life. “That opened my eyes to the idea that telling real stories and meeting real people and bringing the rhythms and the images and the poetry of everyday life into a film could be more powerful than anything I could ever write and direct with actors,” he said. “That really started my love for documentaries.”

Bognar’s documentaries have won awards ranging from top honors at film festivals to an Emmy Award for A Lion in the House, a heart-wrenching glimpse into the lives of families affected by childhood cancer. Bognar co-directed A Lion in the House, as well as the Academy Award–nominated documentary The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant with Wright State motion pictures professor Julia Reichert.

“As an independent filmmaker, I feel like I’m always asking people for their trust. I walk up to people and say ‘Can you tell me your story? Let me film you as you go through something hard,’” Bognar explained. “Any kind of recognition that the films get helps me feel OK about asking people for that and helps everyone say ‘OK, maybe this was worth doing.’”

Bognar made a conscious decision to build his career in Dayton, Ohio, and become part of a community of filmmakers. He serves on the Board of Trustees for FilmDayton, a nonprofit, volunteer-driven organization dedicated to encouraging filmmaking in the Dayton region. He also maintains his connections with faculty and fellow graduates from Wright State’s motion pictures program.

“Some of my best friends in the world—and some of the people I admire most—are fellow motion pictures alumni. People who either I was in school with or who I met afterwards,” said Bognar. “That’s another great thing that’s part of Wright State’s legacy with me.”