Cross country: Niwot’s Cranny named runner of year

Greg Lindstrom
Niwot’s Elise Cranny won the Class 4A state cross country title.

NIWOT — Following a second-place finish at the state cross country championships in 2011 there were no doubts about Elise Cranny’s objective entering 2012 season.

The Niwot junior was determined to win a state title.

Cranny accomplished the feat, using a late burst to surpass Air Academy’s Katie Rainsberger and win the Class 4A championship by one-tenth of a second.

For the achievement, Cranny has been named the Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year.

“She definitely came into the season with the goal to win and I don’t think she ever doubted she would win,” head coach Sam Catterson said. “(The championship) was probably the most exciting race I’ve ever watched. It looked like she was going to lose but she just stayed tough and hung on.”

Cranny’s come-from-behind victory capped a season in which she won several races, including the Broomfield Invitational, St. Vrain Invitational and the Andy Myers Invitational in Greeley. She was also the champion of the Northern Conference.

However none of those races compared to her effort at the title meet in Colorado Springs. After keeping pace with Rainsberger for much of the race, Cranny fell behind and faced a sizable deficit with only a few hundred meters to go. But she used the extent of her reserves to make up the ground and take the lead, completing the course at Norris Penrose Event Center in a time of 18 minutes, 41.36 seconds.

“Because it was so close it still didn’t feel like I had won after,” Cranny said of the dramatic victory. “It is still really exciting.”

Cranny’s winning ways didn’t come to an end with the completion of the Colorado high school season. She took first place at the Nike Cross Southwest Regional in Mesa, Ariz., on Nov. 17. Her time of 16:59.88 set the meet record and earned her a trip to the Nike Cross Nationals Dec. 1 in Portland, Ore.

The quick turnaround gives her little time to rest, as she will continue to train and prepare herself for that race. Following nationals she’ll begin to work on shorter distances for track season, where she hopes to bring home another state title, this time in the mile.

“Elise sets the standard for what a great cross country runner is and she’s a role model for every kid on the team,” Catterson said. “She demonstrates what it is to be great and really encourages everybody.”