Lafayette's Crookston a model of consistency on the track

Contact Reporterkholtzman@vagazette.com

William and Mary made Lafayette's Brooke Crookston think long and hard about staying close to home to run track in college.

But Crookston's final decision in May went in favor of her dream school, BYU. Her parents, grandparents and other relatives graduated from the Provo, Utah campus and Crookston always had her heart set on it. Graduating with the third-highest GPA in her class, she plans to study astronomy there and hopes to walk on the Cougars' perennially strong program.

Crookston, the 2017 Virginia Gazette Girls Outdoor Track and Field Athlete of the Year, led Peninsula 1,600-meter runners with a third-place run of 5:15.98 in the 4A East regional meet before taking sixth in the Group 4A meet. She was also a second off of the fastest 800 mark, her best coming in the regular season at 2:19.

Crookston said, "Definitely towards the end of the season, my times starting coming back down."

After an impressive indoor season in which she also claimed the top Gazette honor, Crookston also put forth a second-place effort in the Conference 18 800 meters and finished fifth in that race at the Colonial Relays.

Crookston ran on the state-qualifying 4x8 and 4x4 relay teams and was hoping for a good overall showing in May's Southern Track Classic in Richmond before rain canceled it. That would have been the biggest meet of the regular season.

She left Lafayette its best-ever 1-miler, holds the school record in the 800 and was a member of the 4x8 relay team that set a new school mark in 2015.

Crookston served as captain this school year in cross country as well as both indoor and outdoor track.

"She has been a leader since day one with us," Lafayette coach Mel Jones said. "That's one reason why we have been so good for so long, because we have had people with good worth ethic. She did a super job. She would approach running like it's business. ... She hated to lose."

"It's definitely been an honor and I definitely owe to it to my coaches and my family supporting me," Crookston said.

Crookston is currently training for the fall with former Lafayette standout Delaney Savedge, who broke the VCU school record in the 3,000-meter steeplechase (10:54.50) at the Atlantic 10 championships and earned all-conference rookie honors.

BYU produced a trio of first or second team All-Americans at the NCAA outdoors this spring including Shea Collinsworth, who finished fourth in the 800 meters and recently signed a professional contract with Nike.

Next chapter

Crookston and boys running standout Konrad Steck have had the most consistent faces the past few seasons of the Lafayette running program.

Jones called Steck the second best Lafayette distance runner ever behind Seneca Lassiter, who starred for Arkansas in the late 1990s.

Steck ran cross country and indoor and outdoor track each season, earning all-state honors in every cycle, and will join former Lafayette star pole vaulter Kathryn Tomczak on the Air Force track and field team next season.

Jones credited Lafayette cross country coaches Craig Wortman, Drew Mearns and track assistants John Piggott and Sarah Bryant in being vital to the development of distance runners like Crookston, Steck and Serenity Chavez.

Lafayette assistant Don Mollenhauer, who coaches field events including pole vault, also deserves a nod. Peyton Blanding had the top girls vault of the year on the Peninsula at 10 feet, 6 inches and should be a leader for the Rams next year along with the likes of rising sophomore Adam Leschinger for the boys.

Buoyed by Steck's third place in the 800 (1:56.81) and second in the 1,600 (4:15.14) in the state meet, Lafayette's boys finished eighth overall.

The Rams' girls did not have the numbers for a strong team finish, but Jones noted several other Lafayette track and field athletes still expect to compete on college teams. Chavez has a spot on George Mason's roster and thrower Tyler Jump is a VMI recruit while Jones said Kasiah Blake (Virginia State), Audrey Hurley (Mary Washington), Talisha Hairston (James Madison), Rashawn Smith (Virginia State), Queshon Sharpless (Virginia State), and Devon Underwood (East Carolina) will try to walk on.

Holtzman can be reached by phone at 757-298-5830.

Copyright © 2019, The Virginia Gazette
82°