On a cold, mid-spring day in Wooster last month, there was Cloverleaf’s Brooklynn Crist.
While the sophomore wasn’t competing at the Nikki Reynolds Wooster Invitational, she was supporting teammates who were.
Crist made a point, however, to do more than that.
She found a way to have conversations with the seven seated athletes who took part. No matter who they were or where they were from, she offered positive words of encouragement and high-fives.
“I just want to be supportive of them, because we work our butts off just as much as anybody else,” Crist said. “Sometimes even harder, because we have to work against our disabilities.
“Sometimes they think that they’re not good enough or they’re not doing it right because they’re not winning, but they’re stars.”
No matter what happens this weekend when three-event defending state champion Crist takes to the track at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium, she knows she has a more important purpose than winning.
She’s more focused on keeping everyone else going.
“Her energetic personality is contagious and her teammates and coaches can’t help but feel better when they are around her,” Cloverleaf coach Garth Gucker said. “Other coaches have come up to me and thanked me for how Brooklynn has spoken kind words to their athletes at some point during the meet and helped them.”
Crist still wants to win. Her competitiveness drove her to the 100-, 400- and 800-meter seated state titles a year ago.
She has overcome a shortened femur in her left leg at birth to have an impressive athletic career that includes being a member of the U.S. Women’s Sled Hockey team and winning the 100 at the inaugural OHSAA 7th and 8th Grade State Championships two years ago.
While Crist is the favorite to repeat in the three seated track events the state offers and is aiming for her first crown in the shot put, she is more about sending a message to everyone watching.
“I want to defend my state titles and I want to be on top,” she said. “Not so much for the fame — I couldn’t care less about that — but I want to prove to myself and the other kids with disabilities who can’t be in the chairs that we can do stuff just like everybody else. We can be on top.”
Crist and teammate Bridgette Donahue will compete in seated events — Donahue entered the 100 and shot put — while fellow Colts Max Gucker, Maddie Boltz and Tommie Kurtz also will make the trip to Columbus.
Unlike last season, when Crist said she was still learning the ins and outs, she feels she’s in a better position. A lot of that has to do with a different training regiment during the season, which includes workouts with Cloverleaf distance runners.
“I think those have helped so much, and now I’m able to do those long distances,” she said. “I struggled last year with the endurance, but now I will do one day of a workout in the chair and then I will do a recovery day. I’m working on all the little things, and that has made a huge difference this season.”
Crist has her eyes on the state record in the 100 after coming close a year ago, when her winning time of 20.55 seconds was 0.04 behind the 2015 mark of Ravenna Southeast’s Jenna Fesemyer.
Garth Gucker has no doubts she can accomplish her goal, among other things.
“Brooklynn is a fantastic athlete that is not satisfied with just being successful,” he said. “She has realized that the pursuit of excellence is far more important, because it challenges you to be the best version of yourself and not be content with just being better than the other competitors.
“When Brooklynn is singularly focused on the task, there is nothing that she can’t accomplish.”
Win or lose, Crist will be the first one congratulating her competitors after the race.
“I always want to put it out there that I’m here for you, and I want them to know that they are doing so, so well,” Crist said. “I want them to come back and keep working, no matter what the school name is.
“That part of the sport is the most important part to my heart. That is what I live for.”