MESA — When the announcer at Mesa Community College called out Michaela Crunkleton Wilson’s name on Wednesday afternoon for the preliminaries of the girls 100- and 200-meter dashes, the Salpointe Catholic senior and two-time defending state champion wasn’t lining up in lane No. 5, where everyone expected to see her.
Instead, the Stanford-bound sprinter was in the first row of the Riggs Stadium bleachers near midfield, watching and wishing she could be in the action one last time.
Crunkleton Wilson, who won three individual state titles last spring and two the year before that, suffered what turned out to be a season-ending leg injury at the Willie Williams Classic on March 21. She was running in the 400 prelims when it happened.
“I felt so good in that 400, too,” she told me Wednesday afternoon at the state championship meet. “I was thinking 55 seconds and then I was on the ground.”
A specialist told Crunkleton Wilson it would take 6-8 weeks to recover and today marks seven weeks since it happened. She ultimately chose to sit out the state championship meet after she recently tried to run a 100 and had to pull up at 70 meters.
“I am feeling better and I have started running but 50 meters for a stride is about my limit,” Crunkleton Wilson said. “If I go beyond that, it’ll start pulling again and it will hurt.
“It’s been a slow recovery and frustrating but hopefully it will make it better than it was before.”
Without Crunkleton Wilson on the track, the chance of Salpointe’s girls team winning its third straight title is slim to none. However, the Lancers still have a star in Diana Gajda, who qualified for Saturday’s finals in all three sprinting events and will run for the UA next year.
“It’s kind of a little flash of the future,” said Gajda, who had the best qualifying time in the 400 on Wednesday. “I won’t have her in college, she’ll be at Stanford and I’ll be here.”
Crunkleton Wilson has been signed on as the team’s official cheerleader just as distance runner Andy Trouard was last year after an apparent stress fracture put an early end to his season.
“I love being able to watch all my teammates compete without being able to warm up and cool down or anything,” Crunkleton Wilson said. “But it’s so hard to sit back and watch my races.
“When they called my name, I wanted to cry; I should have been there.”
But just like Trouard went on to help Northern Arizona’s cross country team to a second-place finish at the NCAA national championships last fall, Crunkleton Wilson understands this isn’t going to be the end of the road for her.
“I still haven’t realized this is state, this is my last high school meet ever and I’m sitting in the stands watching other people run races I want to be in really bad,” Crunkleton Wilson said. “If this was my ultimate, I would definitely be out here running, just risking it all. But since it’s not, I’ve got to look at the big picture.”
State baseball pairings
in need of overhaul
In Saturday’s first round of the Division II baseball state tournament, there were three games featuring teams from Southern Arizona playing each other: Canyon del Oro hosting Tucson, Catalina Foothills hosting Cienega and Sunnyside hosting Sierra Vista Buena.
There has to be a way to prevent that from happening in the opening round of the playoffs. Teams should be playing for the first time of the season unless the circumstances are impossible.
All three of those games were rematches from the last two weeks of the regular season so they should not have been paired up again.
In the first round of Division II softball tournament, there were no local teams going against each other and all five teams playing won. Baseball teams could have done similar if the tournament was set up the right way.
Former Lancer Howell earns school honor
Siena volleyball player Haley Howell, who graduated from Salpointe last spring, was named the college’s female Rookie of the Year this week. Howell, the daughter of former UA tight end Glenn Howell, led the Metro Athletic Conference in assists in conference matches with 999. She also led the Saints with 32 aces.