Caroline Jaeger was an All-American lacrosse player and led Gettysburg College to a national championship in 2017. For most student-athletes, it doesn’t get any bigger or better than that. For Jaeger, a 2017 graduate, those accomplishments were merely the preamble for an even bigger and longer quest – biking 4,000 miles across the United States.
A dream that started in high school came to reality for the Hampton, N.J., native this month as she joined a group of young adults for the 18th annual 4K for Cancer, a program of the Ulman Foundation. The 4,000-mile, 70-day journey from Baltimore to Seattle is an effort to inspire hope and unite communities in the fight against cancer.
Jaeger and her fellow riders started their adventure on June 2 in Baltimore and will travel through 12 different states before arriving in Seattle on August 10.
“I was motivated to join this ride by my dream to bike across America that I’ve had since high school,” said the North Hunterdon High School graduate. “I Googled how to bike across the US and the 4K for Cancer came up. It was a cause I could relate to and wanted to contribute to so I saved the website on my internet browser.”
Like so many people across the country, Jaeger has dealt with cancer since a young age and through many stages of her life. She lost her grandfather to lung cancer and blood cancer when she was in first grade and an elderly woman she assisted for six years by shopping for groceries died from cancer while Jaeger was in college. More recently, Jaeger was a student-athlete at Gettysburg when former Associate Athletic Trainer Kerry Garrett went through her own battle with cancer before succumbing to the disease in 2017.
“All of these experiences have showed me how life is so precious and you never know what can happen to you or your family,” said Jaeger. “You need to live life to its fullest and take advantage of every moment.”
Jaeger is taking advantage of her moment by embarking on the greatest physical endeavor in her 24 years of life so far. She will ride an average of nearly 70 miles per day over various terrain spanning from the East Coast to the West Coast. Jaeger chalks up her time on the lacrosse field at Gettysburg as a big factor in preparing her physically and mentally for the road ahead.
“My experience as a lacrosse player has greatly factored into my drive and determination to complete this journey,” noted Jaeger. “College lacrosse instilled in me the determination and grit that needs to be put forth to achieve a goal, no matter how challenging or how much adversity I face.”
Jaeger’s lacrosse career started rather inconspicuously as a reserve defender, but she continued to work and was determined to make her own mark on the program. That mark came in 2017 when she started all 24 games and finished with 46 goals and nine assists. She scored the game-tying goal at the end of regulation to force overtime against Franklin & Marshall College in the Centennial Conference Championship and she poured in a goal in each of the Gettysburg’s five NCAA playoff games.
Jaeger’s efforts were rewarded as she was named All-America Third Team, All-Metro Region First Team, and All-Centennial Conference First Team. Gettysburg claimed the second national championship in program history with a 6-5 win over The College of New Jersey.
“Ceej is a strong competitor and has the right mental mindset to accomplish the daunting task of her ride. I have no doubt that she will crush it,” said Gettysburg head women’s lacrosse coach Carol Cantele ’83. “She is a serious and goal-oriented athlete and person and is always on a quest for new challenges. She has likely committed to her training both physically and mentally and will be ready to go.”
As a student-athlete, Jaeger was afforded rest days and took time for classes and extracurricular activities like the Enactus Club, Garthwait Leadership Center, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and an externship with AT&T. In this new adventure, she won’t have much time to rest over the course of the 70-day trip. There are just 10 scheduled rest days during the two-month journey, half of which are service days spent at hospitals and cancer facilities directly helping those affected by cancer.
“I think some aspects of this journey will be harder than some things I did on the lacrosse field,” stated Jaeger. “It pushes you to your greatest physical effort, but also is a major mental challenge. Overall, I think this journey will be harder for me in my mental game, just because it’s a lot of the same thing over and over for hours at a time and 70 days straight.”
The goal isn’t just to complete this physical journey. Each participant was asked to fundraise a minimum of $4,500. Jaeger has exceeded that number by $800 thanks to donations from many people with ties to the Gettysburg community. The proceeds will go toward the Ulman Foundation and help young adults battling cancer.
While winning the national championship was the pinnacle of her lacrosse career at Gettysburg, this bike ride across the country will be the highlight of her postgraduate career once completed, at least until her anticipated wedding to former Bullets wrestler Camden Stoops ’17 in 2020. Jaeger, who is a Community Outreach Coordinator with the Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania in the Harrisburg area, won’t be doing too much wedding planning for at least the next two months.
“I think the completion of this trip will be right on par with winning a national championship,” said Jaeger. “My ultimate goal is to have the adventure of a lifetime. I’ve always wanted to bike across America, and it will be great to build amazing relationships with people I never would have met otherwise in places across America that I never would have visited otherwise.”