Eric Rachita is a distance runner on both the Case Western Reserve University cross country and track teams. Last track season, he achieved personal records of 2:07.47 in the 800-meter run and a 15:50.94 in the 5,000-meter run. While not on the run, Eric conducts research for the polymer science department, showing the world how polymer science is actually a big part of everyone’s lives.
What is your favorite part of being on the track team? Why?
I love having a group of really close friends to support me. There’s something about running that builds strong friendships, and I think that’s something unique to the sport.
Where did you get your passion for running? Any good stories?
Both my parents ran cross country and track at the College of Wooster, so they were a big influence that led me to running. They’ve always been a big part of why I run and are always there to cheer me on. There’s also a night 5k race in my hometown put on by the high school cross country team, so I ran that almost every year as a kid. The glow sticks and free food at the finish were reason enough to give cross country a shot in middle school.
Do you have any meets that you remember being particularly special? Why?
Last track season, I was pretty close to breaking 16 minutes in the 5k. I battled a lot of injury in high school and was finally putting together a long season of training, so I was finally seeing success. I crushed the time by running a 15:50 at a meet at Ohio Wesleyan last year. I was super happy to have reached my goal and have my teammates there to celebrate with me.
Aside from track, what else are you involved in on campus? Clubs, student orgs, Greek life? Can you explain what you do in them?
I do research in the polymer science department. I’m working on computer modeling of new molecules synthesized in the lab to help predict how they will behave as an industrial product.
Why are you majoring in polymer science and engineering? What interests you about it?
I had a really amazing AP Chemistry teacher in high school, so I came to Case knowing that I wanted to stick close to chemistry. I was on the fence for a while between chemical engineering and polymer science. I ended up choosing polymer science engineering because it is a relatively small major around the country and is used in almost all commercial materials. There’s a lot of things we use that we don’t realize are the result of polymer science.
What do you hope to accomplish with the degree?
I’m hoping to go to graduate school after my time at CWRU, probably in organic chemistry or something similar. I really like the research that I’m doing, so I hope to continue with that in grad school as well. From there, I’d like to go into industry working on new materials that are more sustainable than what we use today.
What are your favorite free time activities? Why?
It sounds nerdy but I’ve always loved watching documentaries on Netflix … I’ve always found them fascinating no matter what the topic is, and learning something new is always really cool. I’m also watching “Parks and Recreation” right now … [It’s a] really good show.
What is your favorite quote or what inspires you?
“To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.” – American distance runner, Steve Prefontaine