Men's and Women's Cross Country - Annual meet named after former cross country alumn

Friday, September 5 2008 - EIU Walt Crawford Alumni Meet

Eastern will hold its first Walt Crawford Alumni Meet at 5 p.m. Saturday.

The Panthers have had an alumni meet for many years but head coach Geoff Masanet decided this summer he wanted to name it after Crawford.

Crawford is an alum of the Eastern cross country team. He walked onto the team in the late 1960s because there wasn't any scholarship money available at the time.

He ran here for a few years, dropped out to join the Marines, and then came back to finish his degree in the mid-1970s.

 After graduating, he returned to Chicago and continued improving at distance running, earning sixth place in the 1978 Chicago Marathon.

 His former coach at Eastern, Tom Woodall, said Crawford was the best American born black long distance runner in the country in the early-to-mid-1980s.

 In 2002, he was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease. He fought that for four years before dying in August 2006.

 Since his death, a scholarship fund has been set up in his name and is awarded to an athlete on the cross country team that demonstrates strong character and traits are what Crawford stood for.

 "Crawford represents a lot of what EIU cross country distance running is about and has been about all these years," Masanet said. "He loved running, he loved his team, loved his school, he loved running here, loved the terrain. He would drive down from Chicago on the weekends after he graduated just to run on this course."

 Last year's recipient was junior Mario Castrejon, and this year Masanet said the scholarship will be split between sophomores Brad LaRocque and Ryan Hoklas.

 The Panthers will use this Saturday's alumni meet as a glorified time trial and practice. Masanet is not putting a lot of pressure into the results of this meet, but he said he just wants the runners to stick together and run a controlled race.

 "We are approaching it as a hard run versus a race," Masanet said. "Hopefully people will walk into the race with a plan, during the race they will execute it and hopefully once they are done, they feel like they could have pushed harder."

 Junior Erin O'Grady said the main focus of the meet would be to work together in groups and learn to lean on and support each other.

 "Hopefully everyone will get their pre-race jitters out now so that when it comes to the bigger meets they are ready to go," O'Grady said. "In the bigger meets, there is no time to be nervous."

 There are seven newcomers on the women's side, and four on the men's side. Masanet said he is looking forward to seeing how each one of them contributes and how the returning runners look this year.

 "Sticking with the team is going to be our focus this weekend," junior Eric Pedersen said. "Stay together in a pack, not racing each other like we have in the past, but running with each other for most of the race."


Brandy Provaznik can be reached at 581-7944 or at