It's been a long, and wildly successful, season for Elise Cranny, but the race of her dreams still awaits. Colorado Track XC file photo by Alan Versaw.
For Elise Cranny, another showdown with Alexa Efraimson looms later this month. But this time it is about so much more than Cranny v. Efraimson. It's about the world's top juniors settling it all on 1500 stirring meters of racing in Eugene, Oregon.
It was four years ago this summer that Elise Cranny started competitive running. And, while she had a very good freshman year, it would be reaching to suggest that anyone saw this coming four years ago.
Yet, the opportunity has arrived.
The USA gear has arrived at Cranny's door, and she is upbeat about the opportunity before her, "I am excited for the opportunity to represent the USA. When I received all of the USA gear, I felt very excited and proud to be able to wear the red, white, and blue… especially on U.S. soil. I am looking forward to racing the best juniors in the world and know it will be great for my development as a runner."
For Cranny, it's been a long season to get to this point. She has been racing since February, and some of the regular wear and tear of that started to take a toll on her.
"Prior to the Colorado state track meet, I started developing shin and heel pain. I finally discovered that it was coming from a small change in the model of shoes that I had been training in for years. Knowing that my ultimate goal was qualifying for Worlds, I had to back off my training and racing in order to heal."
Backing off on her training and racing meant setting aside her invitation to race in the adidas Dream Mile. A lesser goal had to step aside to keep things on track for the greater goal.
Taking a sensible approach to racing, however, isn't the only arrow in Cranny's quiver.
Cranny has been a remarkably durable runner throughout high school, a factor she attributes to "eating healthy, staying hydrated, staying rested, stretching, core, and strengthening. I also try to be very proactive. If I feel something extra sore I ice it and treat it so it does not become an injury. I have also learned the importance of listening to my body and taking easy runs easy. My mileage is also relatively low which helps keep me fresh and healthy."
And, by now, Cranny's swimming is also widely known as an off-season means by which she maintains the core strength necessary keep the chassis well-tuned for racing.
When Cranny steps onto the track at Hayward Field later this month, she will be taking her favorite race to the world stage, "The 1500 is my favorite event. It is a nice combination of strength and speed. I prefer the 1500 over the 800 because it is a little longer of a race which gives me more time to position myself and feel out the race before everyone starts kicking."
But, with a season that began with 6000 meter race on a chilly, breezy day at the USA Cross Country Championships in February, and has visited a lengthy list of major events since that time, it would be easy to lose enthusiasm for even your favorite race.
Cranny seems not to have reached that point, "I definitely feel as though I have had a long season, but I still feel fresh."
She adds, "I have a great coach who helps me "reboot" after mentally exhausting races. It has been helpful to do hill workouts and fartleks without so much focus on times."
And so it all comes down to one last event as a high schooler--the World Junior Championships. While acknowledging that there are all kinds of things that could go wrong both in and outside of her control and play a factor in the outcome, she feels a 4:08 is within the realm of possibility and, "I am really just looking to break the 4:10 barrier!"
Those are the kind of times that could keep her in the hunt in an event like World Juniors.
Beyond World Juniors, Cranny comes under the fold of the Stanford Cardinal. Racing as deep into the summer as World Juniors could have an impact on her status for cross country in the fall, but that decision will wait until after Worlds and after she has had some well-deserved time off from the rigors of racing.