Lewis Geyer / TIMES-CALL
Maria Fayeulle, left, and Elise Cranny signed letters of intent during Niwot’s signing day ceremony Wednesday. Fayeulle will play soccer at Northwestern, Cranny signed for cross country and track at Stanford.

NIWOT — Elise Cranny has won titles, shattered records and exceeded expectations at every turn over nearly four years of running track and cross country at Niwot High School.

On Wednesday in the Niwot library, one of the nation’s top runners solidified her future with one of the nation’s top collegiate track and cross country programs, as well as one of the top academic institutions around.

An embarrassment of riches to be sure, Cranny’s options included the top tier of the Pac-12 Conference. In the end, she decided she fit best with the Stanford Cardinal.

“It was mostly the team,” Cranny said. “I felt very comfortable with them. They were all very positive and the atmosphere really felt like they were all working together. That was really appealing. Having so many incredible runners on one team, we can really push each other and they’re all excited about what they have there.”

The Stanford women’s team took 11th at the 2013 NCAA Cross Country Championships with a team that included just one senior. Junior Aisling Cuffe was the Cardinal’s top finisher, placing fourth overall. The team also included four sophomores who placed in the top 200.

Now, the Cardinal has added Cranny.

Named the girls track and field athlete of the year as a junior last season, Cranny led the Cougars to the school’s first track and field state team title by winning the 800, 1,600, and 3,200-meter races, and broke Melody Fairchild’s 22-year-old 1,600 state record. Earning back-to-back girls cross country runner of the year awards, she also has won the last two 4A state cross country titles.

Stanford had so much of what Cranny wanted that she was able to pass on an offer from the University of Colorado, another top-level program in her own backyard. But it was an arduous decision that took several months to make after visiting both schools in September.

“It was a really hard decision because I’m really close with my family so I was nervous about going away,” Cranny said. “And to have such an incredible program right here, that makes it harder.”

Cranny said it took her until two weeks ago to make her final decision. Once she did, Cranny’s parents Bob and Sandy were pleased that she’d be able to receive an Ivy League education while chasing her running goals.

“It was a difficult decision for her, but a Stanford education, that’s tough to pass up,” Bob Cranny said. “We’re very proud.”

Also headed from Niwot to the Division I-tier of collegiate athletics, Cougars senior Maria Fayeulle signed her National Letter of Intent to play women’s soccer at Northwestern University.

Fayeulle scored 11 goals in 12 games as a junior for the Cougars last season. She scored 15 the year before that. Though she committed to Northwestern back in April of 2013, Fayeulle said Wednesday’s signing provided her a validation she had anticipated for nearly a year.

“It’s so real now. I always knew that I wanted to go to school in the city so Chicago right away was one that I was looking at,” Fayeulle said. “I talked a lot to the coaches through email before I ever even met them. Then last February, I went to a one-day clinic and loved the campus right away.”

On top of her experience with the Cougars, Fayeulle said alongside the many college-bound players on the state and national champion FC Boulder 18U squad helped her realize her own D-I potential.

“There were a bunch of girls on that team that committed to play D-I even before I did,” Fayeulle said. “As soon as that started happening, I started thinking, ‘Maybe I can do that.’ So I started emailing coaches and I got responses from some D-I coaches so I knew I would have the opportunity.

“Joining the Big Ten is exciting because of the competitive nature in the conference. It should be a great experience.”

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