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OT grad overcomes odds, has eye on Olympics

by Mary Helen Yarborough
Public Relations
Obtaining an advanced degree in two years while vying for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team is not for the faint-hearted. But Sarah Casteel is no ordinary student or athlete. A paraplegic since 18 following a collision with a drunk driver, which also killed her younger brother, Casteel has developed the steely determination and focus that typify qualities of top athletes and the best students.
On May 16, Casteel graduates from the College of Health Professions as an occupational therapist from one of the nation’s top allied health programs. She managed to earn her degree with a 3.7 grade point average while competing nationally in wheelchair tennis tournaments.
“Continuing tennis competition and going to school was difficult, and both my education and tennis suffered,” Casteel said. “But I am glad I did it, and the professors were good about letting me go to tournaments and make up classes.”
Casteel also had to recover from a setback during her first year at MUSC. Doctors operated to remove screws and plates implanted in her spine after the automobile wreck. Tennis took a backseat, but she quickly returned to training and competing in national events.
Currently ranked fifth in the nation, Casteel is hoping to improve her ranking by at least one spot after this month’s Atlanta Open, the last event of the year that will help determine who will represent the United States this summer.
“The rankings are based on a point system,” said the nation’s former number one player. If she succeeds in this international event, Casteel should be assured a position among the top four.
While making it to Beijing is her top priority now, Casteel also looks forward to settling into an OT job near her family in Greenville. “I’m not sure what field I want to work in, but I just want to go for a job that sounds interesting,” said the Stephens College, Mo., alumnus who originally wanted to study fashion design.


Friday, May 16, 2008
Catalyst Online is published weekly, updated as needed and improved from time to time by the MUSC Office of Public Relations for the faculty, employees and students of the Medical University of South Carolina. Catalyst Online editor, Kim Draughn, can be reached at 792-4107 or by email, Editorial copy can be submitted to Catalyst Online and to The Catalyst in print by fax, 792-6723, or by email to To place an ad in The Catalyst hardcopy, call Island Publications at 849-1778, ext. 201.