2007-03-01 / News

Star NKHS senior runner almost played soccer

By Adrienne Downing

Caitlin Crawford races to a tenth place finish in the Rhode Island state meet. Caitlin Crawford races to a tenth place finish in the Rhode Island state meet. It is amazing to think about the possibility that Caitlin Crawford was almost not a member of the North Kingstown High School cross country and track teams.

Crawford, a senior, has anchored the team since she finished second at the cross country state meet her freshman year, but if two North Kingstown recreation track club coaches had not intervened, the Skippers would have been missing a very important part of their team.

"If it weren't for Dee LaMay and Charlie Breagy, I would be a soccer player today," Crawford explains.

Unlike some runners, the sport was not love at first sight for Crawford. After running during her sixth grade year on the Lawn school cross-country team, she tried out and made it onto the school soccer team.

"I really only ran to stay in shape for soccer, but my dad knew that I was a better runner and so he made me go to five practices with the track club."

She was still not sure about running after three practices and was fairly certain that she would not stick with it, when one event happened that changed her running history.

"I remember they had a track meet where the kids could sign up for what events they wanted to run, so Caitlin went and signed up for the 1500," her dad, Stephen, explained. "They didn't have anyone else sign up for the event and so they didn't have it. We tried to get Caitlin to go down onto the track with the other runners, but she was happy sitting in the bleachers with us."

That was when LaMay stepped in.

"She came up and took Caitlin by the hand and told her to come with her and she would find something for her to run," he said.

Crawford ran in the 4 x 400 relay that day, went to those final two father-mandated practices and has been "hooked" ever since.

"I remember that day," La- May said. "I love that kid, she is so amazing and it is really special in my heart that she has done so well."

Done well is an understatement when considering Crawford's accomplishments. She has had four top-ten state finishes in cross-country and she continues to set personal records for herself this indoor track season.

Recently, she ran a 3:03 in the 1000 meters at the Rhode Island state championships, which qualified her for the New England championships on Friday.

A personal record, a 4:51 in the 1500 meters, came at the URI invitational in January.

Her favorite moment this year, however, was her great performance at the Brown cross-country invitational.

"I think sometimes people don't get it. Doing well at Brown is bigger than winning states. All the best schools from New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts, they are all there," she explained.

Although she has amazing running talent, coaches and teammates alike say her off-track contributions are just as important.

"When Caitlin joined the team, they were not very dedicated and she changed the attitude of the whole team," Keven O'Neil, cross-country head coach, complimented. "She makes everyone want to do the best they can do."

Teammate Monica Black credits Crawford with being a big motivator for the team.

"She has been the captain for the last two years and her leadership has been great. She really peps us up before races," Black said.

A very selfless runner, Crawford can sometimes be seen giving up the win in order to run alongside a teammate trying for a better time.

"She really is a good kid. She is all about the team, there is nothing individual about it for her," her mom, Nancy, added.

The team is exactly the reason Crawford finds it so easy to be a team player. "I love this team, we are so close, like family. We are together seven days a week starting July first and we just get along so well," she said.

Crawford's running caught the attention of one of the top running universities in the country and unless something changes dramatically, she will be attending ACC powerhouse Wake Forest University in the fall.

Running is not Crawford's only strength. She has also set a high academic standard for herself. Currently holding a 3.75 grade point average, she ranks 17 out of 400 students in her class.

"I think that running makes me a better student," she explained. "It makes me be disciplined and gives me good time management skills."

For now, Crawford will finish out the indoor season and have a very short break before outdoor track starts in this month.

The Skippers will be savoring their last season with her and looking to celebrate with her one more time.

"It doesn't get any better than her. She has a drive like no one I have ever seen and I think her best races are still ahead of her," O'Neil concluded.

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