Highlands grad Alan Crise impresses in 1st year as NCAA decathlete
Throughout his time as an athlete, Alan Crise has dabbled.
Soccer was his first sport. Football later became his preferred fall activity.
A quality baseball pitcher in his adolescence, Crise traded the diamond sport for track and field in the spring.
If not so busy with basketball in the winter, Crise would've tried swimming.
“I've done almost any sport, just to try it,” Crise said. “If the seasons didn't conflict, I probably would've tried every sport available in high school.”
College forces nearly all multi-sport high school athletes to select one activity, which becomes a full-time obligation. A year ago, Crise, a 2012 Highlands graduate, made his choice — track and field at West Virginia Wesleyan. But Crise has found a way to slightly beat the system and diversify his experiences as a NCAA Division II athlete.
Make that decathlete.
Crise, a freshman, is one of seven qualifiers for the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Multi-Event Championships, which includes the decathlon and begins Saturday in Glenville, W.Va.
Months ago, those close to Crise considered the Highlands grad a little crazy when they learned about his plans. Now a doubter is difficult to find.
“I always like a new challenge, just something to wake up and go work on,” Crise said.
A challenge set Crise on a path toward collegiate track and field. From eighth grade through his sophomore season, he viewed himself first as a jumping specialist and later as a 400-meter runner. But as a junior, Vicki Crise, an older sister by one grade level who specialized in hurdling, bet Alan that the 300 hurdles event was as tiring as the 400.
Game on, thought Crise, who in his first try finished the event in the low 40-second range, a time good enough to qualify him for the WPIAL Class AAA championships.
“(He did it) basically because his sister did it, and he wanted to be better than her,” Highlands coach Mike Foster said. “After that, we let him pick whatever he wanted to do.”
When West Virginia Wesleyan coach Jesse Skiles made his recruiting pitch to Crise last spring, he tapped into the Highlands standout's desire to dabble. He suggested Crise could thrive as a decathlete but left the decision up to the then-senior.
Crise knew almost nothing about the decathlon's specifics, yet the lack of familiarity failed to scare him away.
“I told (Skiles), ‘Yeah, anything to help score points for the team,' ” Crise said. “And the first thing I thought about was pole vault — I thought, ‘I have no idea how I'm going to react to that.' ”
Vicki Crise, who transferred from Winthrop to West Virginia Wesleyan for this school year, and Foster wondered whether Crise understood the gravity of his agreement. He barely fit the description of a seasoned hurdler — did he really want to add a half-dozen other events to his to-do list?
As usual, Crise embraced the challenge.
“I think he took this the same way (as the 300 hurdles),” Vicki Crise, a sophomore, said. “He proved me wrong again.”
During the indoor winter season, Crise seized the opportunity to become an understudy of teammate Cuylor Edgell, a senior who won the WVIAC's last three decathlon titles. With the help of senior shot put and discus standout Eric Myers, Crise learned to throw the items as well as he launched baseballs and footballs. In his insatiable craving for more guidance, Crise turned to YouTube clips when bored in his dorm.
In his first decathlon meet, Crise scored 5,066 points — more than 1,000 above the WVIAC championship qualifying standard.
“Once he got one decathlon under his belt, he was hooked,” Skiles said.
One week after the Multi-Event finals, the WVIAC will hold the rest of its championships, and Crise will get a chance to medal in his best individual events.
Hardware in a single event seems unlikely to sway Crise toward specialization.
“I still sometimes think that if he focused on the hurdles, he'd do well,” said Vicki Crise, a championship contender in the 100 and 400 hurdles. “But right now, he's having more success doing everything.”