A Reluctant Star
Long distances have never been much trouble for Sheena Crawley ’13, star runner for Franklin & Marshall’s cross-country and track teams. The Coatesville, Pa., native has set numerous school and conference records in races of varying distances, from the 800-meter run to the 3,000-meter run, and several in between. She has competed in the NCAA championships during the fall, winter and spring seasons, earning All-America honors five times.
But there was a time not long ago when the most decorated distance runner in F&M history had trouble navigating a much shorter distance—20 feet. Reluctant to run in college so she could focus on academics, Crawley maintained this distance from F&M’s cross country coach, John Stoudt, during an open house for accepted high-school seniors in the spring of 2009.
“Sheena wouldn’t even talk to me. She stayed about 20 feet away and smiled,” Stoudt recalls. “Her mom and sister sought me out. I asked them if Sheena was any good, and her mom said, ‘She’s pretty good.’”
Three years later, Stoudt and other coaches at F&M have learned that “pretty good” was quite an understatement.
Putting Education First
Running has been part of Crawley’s life since she was a young child, when she regularly outlasted boys in races around her neighborhood in Coatesville. She began running competitively in middle school and stuck with it, leading to a stellar career at Coatesville Area Senior High School in which she earned district and state honors in several indoor and outdoor track events.
“I’ve always liked the challenge of running, and how there’s always something you can do to improve yourself,” Crawley said. “There’s always a time to beat.”
Crawley also enjoyed the challenge of participating in two sports during the same season. A three-year varsity soccer player in high school, she ran cross country for the first time during the fall of her senior year—often running from one practice to the next the same afternoon. “I was going to quit soccer, but I don’t like disappointing my coaches,” she said.
Several NCAA Division I schools showed strong interest in Crawley, and some of them were prepared to offer athletic scholarships to the promising runner. But the future Diplomat had other plans.
“I thought I was done running after my senior year,” Crawley said. “Running in Division I would be like a job. They take it so seriously at that level. It would be like trying to become a pro, and I’d be missing a lot of class. I hate missing just one day of class. I’m trying to get an education.”
Crawley first learned about F&M through Upward Bound, a national program that provides opportunities for high-school students to succeed in higher education. She visited F&M on a tour with Upward Bound during her junior year and fell in love with the school. “I remember walking into [Steinman] College Center and thinking, ‘This is where I want to be.’ It was a weird feeling. So I came back to F&M my senior year to visit again.”
Crawley applied Early Decision and was accepted as a member of F&M’s Class of 2013, but still had hesitations about running in college. Stoudt hoped to change her mind. He watched her race at Coatesville several times in the spring of 2009, taking along former Diplomat runner Megan Hunter ’09 to meet Crawley on one trip.
“Sheena recognized she had the talent for running, but it’s not her whole life,” Stoudt said. “She’s competitive, but not so passionate that it consumes her life. She was smart enough to know that she’d get burned out at a Division I school. Her high school coach said, ‘John, she’s reluctant, but you’ll have a star if she runs.’”
Running Toward History
With strong encouragement from her family, Crawley decided to give running a shot in college.
“My mom and sister said, ‘Don’t give up your gift, it comes naturally to you,’” Crawley said. “But I didn’t run right away [at F&M]. I skipped cross country season so I could get used to college, then decided to run indoor track that winter and outdoor track in the spring.”
Working with Stoudt, head track & field coach Carl Schnabel and assistant coach Tommy Pearson, Crawley gradually built her mileage throughout her first year at F&M. The coaches trained her at “80 percent,” Stoudt said, assuring Crawley they wouldn’t overwhelm her with too much running. Things began to click during her sophomore campaign, when Crawley qualified for nationals in the indoor mile.
“Sheena ran the national meet in Ohio with bronchitis and finished ninth,” Stoudt said. “The whole way home she kept saying, ‘I need to train more, I need to be more aggressive.’ She always says the right things, and she’s probably the most coachable person we’ve ever had. She’s really all you can ask for in a student-athlete.”
Crawley continued to improve, earning a gold medal at the 2010 Centennial Conference (CC) Outdoor Championships in the 800-meter run in a school-record 2:12.60, a mark she would reset the following year (2:12.25) and again at the 2012 national meet in California (2:09.58). She won three gold medals in the 2011 CC championships, and has finished in the top 10 nationally in both the 800-meter run and 1,500-meter run.
Crawley’s coaches help her develop a strategy for the big races so she knows when to push it, and when to save herself for the next race. When Stoudt told Crawley to finish in the top five at the 2011 CC cross country championships, she finished fifth. At the regional race two weeks later, the coach told her to finish in the top three, and she finished second. Stoudt urged Crawley to finish in the top 20 at nationals a week later—and she finished 11th in NCAA Division III.
“I think Coach Stoudt knows me better than I know myself,” Crawley said.
School Books and Record Books
Crawley still remains focused on academics, the primary reason she applied to F&M in the first place. An art and economics double major, she intends to pursue a career in graphic design after graduating from F&M. She currently balances a full load of courses with varsity athletics and her campus job in the Phillips Museum of Art.
“To succeed in college while running, you have to be strict with yourself,” Crawley said. “I can’t get caught socializing if I walk through the College Center after practice. I spend a few hours each night on schoolwork, unless I need to pull an allnighter. But I don’t like to sacrifice my sleep. It’s all about time management.”
With her senior campaign under way, Crawley continues her run through the F&M record books. She holds five school records in indoor track (800-meter run, 1,000-meter run, mile, 3,000-meter run and 4 x 400 relay) and four in outdoor tack (800-meter run, 1,500-meter run, 4 x 400 relay and 5,000-meter run). She said she is aware of her place in F&M athletics history, and enjoys connecting with track and cross-country alumnae who excelled at F&M before her.
“Denise Paull ’84 emailed me to wish me good luck in a race, and Lois Lucente ’86 asked to meet me when she was on campus. It’s so nice to hear from alumnae,” Crawley said. Both Paull and Lucente are members of the F&M Athletics Hall of Fame and helped the 1985 women’s cross country team win the NCAA Division III national championship.
Stoudt has encouraged Crawley to run with a sense of urgency during her final year at F&M.
“The sky’s the limit with Sheena,” Stoudt said. “She runs her best in the biggest races. But as accomplished as she is and as great a runner she is, she’s an even better person.”
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