Where Are They Now? Featuring Niwot's Elise Cranny

Lauren Cawley recently caught up with Niwot-alum Elise Cranny for our new series Where Are They Now?

Cranny was an eight-time Colorado State Champion, owning high school personal bests of 2:04.81 in the 800, 4:10.95 in the 1500, 4:47.54 in the 1,600, 10:17 in the 3,200, and 16:45 in the 5k.

She was a 12-time All-American at Stanford.

Last February she set the American Record for the indoor 5,000, running 14:33.17. 

She runs professionally for Nike.


LC) How did you first get started in running?

EC) I was first exposed to the world of sports through my parents, they did track while I was growing up, so that was my very early introduction to sports in general...

I would say middle school is when I really started to get into running, I joined the track team in sixth grade and cross country in eighth grade.I loved the team aspect of cross country...

In middle school my teammates and I would run to the Dairy Queen, get ice cream, and walk back... And I just thought 'Wow, running is really fun!'

I would say from there, my freshman year of high school I had two really influential coaches. Jason Hartmann was the assistant coach for cross country and he really opened my eyes to the world of running... He was the one that told me that I could run in college.

Coach Mo, the track coach, convinced me to do track in the spring because I was still between track and soccer. I would say both of them really changed my perspective... I thought that maybe I should go all in on this running thing and that it could take me pretty far.

LC) Tell me about one of your most memorable accomplishments during your time as a high-school athlete at Niwot.

EC) The most memorable thing is honestly from my freshman year when we won cross country regionals as a team and I won the race individually...

Honestly, as a freshman it was just one of those meets where everyone on the team had a really really good day... I don't even really remember the race, I just remember the feeling afterwards - everyone was in such a good mood, I don't think that we thought as a team that we could win the region.

That meet is still so memorable to this day...

I think, again, just back to that team side of things it was so great because it felt like we all worked together and it all was apart of something bigger than ourselves - that is the really special thing about cross country. Only being a freshman, I had only been running at the high school for a couple of months at that point and I didn't really know the whole lay of the land...it was just a very exciting moment.

LC) What is it like seeing Niwot as a national powerhouse today?

EC) It's been so incredible, I mean it's been so cool to see, and like I said my freshman year is when Coach Mo started there and I could definitely tell when he first came there that he was going to build something incredible with all of the passion that he brought in to the team and wanting to make not necessarily better athletes but just better people.

I think that with that whole sentiment of being something that's bigger than yourself, I really saw that come together and build when I was there - we definitely started to find success within the last couple of years that I was there but it's been so insane just seeing how they've taken off over the past couple of years. It makes it so fun to follow, it's really cool to see what the coaches and the athletes there have been able to do.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I was at Nike Cross Regionals and it was just so great to be there with Nike as a professional but just to see my team be there and watch them win the team title and qualify for nationals. Seeing how they're all working together and seeing the energy that they bring is really cool. I've loved following from afar!

It's also been cool to see more of them going on to run in college, that wasn't quite as common a few years ago and I just feel like now almost everyone from the team is continuing to run in college which is great.

LC) What made you choose Stanford in your college recruiting process?

EC) I think what ultimately made me choose Stanford was two big things - one being the team, when I visited there they were just really welcoming and I really wanted to surround myself with people that were better than me and that I knew would help push me and help me grow on and off the track.

Another thing was my coach's long-term approach to training, he said that they wanted to train me really hard in college but not at the expense to set me up for running after college, I just felt like he really understood my long-term goals of training and that was really important to me too.

I'd say those two things, but of course you can't pass up the opportunity to be in an incredible place to go to school, that was something that really excited me... Just being in a place where you're surrounded by the best of the best and a ton of different fields where you can learn from, so that was definitely a pull as well.

LC) What was your most memorable accomplishment as a collegiate athlete?

EC) There's honestly just so many little moments... What I always try to tell people is that it's so important to remember the little things like the bus rides to meets, team dinners, or travel trips in college...

Even though they weren't anything crazy, I feel like those are the things you look back on and just think about how fun it was...

But I would probably have to say a huge highlight for me was when we got fourth as a team at cross country NCAA's. This was the only time that we were on the podium while I was there, I thought it was really special because the mens team had been on the podium so many times and it was just something that we really wanted as a women's team.

We had some injuries, I redshirted one of the years, it just never quite came together... But when it finally did, I think that it was so special just being able to share that with the team.

LC) At what point in your career did you realize that running professionally was an option? Was this always a dream for you?

EC) My assistant coach at Niwot, Jason Hartmann, who really started working with me throughout high school, I think he really opened my eyes to this possibility...

Again, freshman year I had no idea that anything really existed outside of state, and he's the one that told me I could go to Nike Cross Regionals, you can go to New Balance Nationals, and I feel like that was really big for me and just expanding my view of running and that it exists outside of the state...

I feel like when he introduced me to that I had a really big breakthrough my junior year, I went to New Balance Indoor Nationals to run the mile and I won with an eighteen second personal best. This was really when the consistency from the prior two years started to come together and set in, and I think in that moment that was really eye-opening...

He told me that I could do some really eye-opening things in this sport. This is what made me want to run in college and post-college as well. This also just opened my eyes to what professional running really was. That same year, he had me race a 1500 at Stanford. This was also the first time I saw professional runners race in person, and that's when I realized that it was something I wanted to do.

LC) What has been your favorite memory as a professional runner so far?

EC) I would have to say making the Olympic team, I just feel like there was so much emotion that went into those trials because they were moved with the pandemic and we weren't sure if there would be fans or anything...

But my family and a good friend of mine from high school were able to be there and I just think that that hour after the race when you're just surrounded by your teammates, coaches, family, really just everyone that got you there and realizing that I had accomplished a goal that I had had for a very long time, it was just very memorable.

We had a whole Bowerman Track Club section of great energy... It's all just such a great memory. This was the first Olympic team that I had made and just being surrounded by everyone that made it possible for me was just great. This is definitely what stands out the most.

LC) Is there any advice that you would give your younger self or other high school runners?

EC) I think, although it may sound cliche, definitely just enjoying all of those little moments and the time spent with your teammates.

I know that people say that a lot but those are the things that I remember the most looking back. Even just sitting outside in high school for one of those all day track meets and just talking or listening to music with your friends, it's just things like that that mean the most.

When I think about high school these days, I feel like the training and everything is just so elevated and a lot more intense, which I think can be a good thing, but I also think it's so important to keep it fun because I believe that that's what has allowed me to have success in the sport... Just that I never took it too seriously and I always really enjoyed those little moments.

Another important piece is to celebrate all of the little steps taken forward instead of allowing yourself to feel far from your goals. I think that this just brings a lot more joy to the process and just allowing you to feel alive and keep up your momentum.