BELOIT—A Beloit College senior with tremendous athletic ability who prepped at Beloit Memorial High School will compete this week in the NCAA Division III Outdoor Track and Field Championships.
Just not the one you probably thought of first.
While Eva Laun-Smith called it a career after winning five gold medals in the Midwest Conference North Division Championships, teammate Aminah Crawford will represent the Buccaneers when she competes in the 100-meter dash in Greensboro, N.C.
Beloit head coach Brian Bliese would love to have both athletes on the track this weekend, but he understands Laun-Smith’s decision.
“It’s been a really difficult season for the kids,” Bliese said. “For Eva and Aminah to accomplish what they did is remarkable. While Eva also qualified (for nationals), she decided she would rather participate in commencement weekend. She’s delivering a speech Friday and she’s receiving honors on Saturday.
“I think she knew she was going to do that heading into the conference meet. Five golds is a pretty good end to a career.”
Crawford, meanwhile, still has one mission in mind. She wants to earn All-American honors at nationals. That will require fa top eight finish.
“Originally my season goal was to get the school record (in the 100),” Crawford said. “Once I got that I thought everything else would just be major additions I will be super proud of. But now that I have that record it gives me confidence and I really want to be an All-American.”
While she was a soccer player in high school, her intense efforts in college track have turned the one-time novice into a national contender.
““For her to be where she is right now, accomplishing what she has this season while juggling graduate school applications and preparing for graduation is incredible,” Bliese said. “Her attitude this entire season has been inspiring.”
COVID-19 drastically cut into pre-season training, but did nothing to slow Crawford. Just what kind of senior season she’d have was previewed in De Pere in early May. On a tremendously windy day, she captured the 100 in 12.05 seconds, ranking her fifth in the nation at the time.
Crawford was just getting started. At the MWC North Meet, she was first in the 100 and 200, each by nearly half a second, and helped the 4x100 relay also take gold. She was recognized as the Track Performer of the Meet.
Crawford had one final meet she wanted to try, a last chance meet hosted by North Central College last Thursday. Competing in the third heat of the 100, she had an anxious moment when a false start was signaled. After a meeting between the starter and meet officials, no one was DQed because it was determined there was too much background noise. The runners lined up again in the starting blocks and despite the earlier problems this one went off without a hitch. In fact, Crawford’s blazing start matched her finish. She won the heat in a personal-best 11.86, shattering the school record and ranking fourth in the nation.
“I got back in the blocks and I heard Bliese yell to me, ‘Focus!’” Crawford said with a chuckle. “I didn’t think I came out of the blocks that fast the first time. I figured they are giving you a re-do so you have to do what you have to do. I took off.
“I never thought I’d get that time though. It was like, I did that? Sub-12 seconds? Well congratulations, girl. It was magical. I never thought I was capable of that. Now I’m excited to see what I can do at nationals.”
Her coach was also stunned by the 11.86 clocking.
“When the time was announced the crowd just went woah,” Bliese said. “I remember when Felicia Carlson ran 12.05 and I thought we would never have anyone close to that time again. The first thing that shot into my mind after they flashed that 11.86 on the scoreboard was two young ladies from Beloit Memorial have shattered the record. How cool is that?
“That 11.86 is smoking fast. She has really learned how to finish races.”
Crawford, Bliese and assistant coach Ellie Waddle head to Greensboro on Wednesday and the sprinter will have some practice time on the track. She doesn’t compete until Friday. Prelims are at 2:30 CST with the finals at 12:30 p.m. CST Saturday.
The plan is to be back in Beloit in time for her to join commencement ceremonies Sunday.