Vail Valley’s Crisofulli racing to NCAA regionals
PORTLAND, Ore. – Battle Mountain alumnus Tony Crisofulli is always going to be hard to catch.
The 2008 graduate holds the school’s 800-meter record at 1 minute, 56.22 seconds and that’s probably going to be on the wall for a while.
But try catching him now. A junior at Portland State University, Crisofulli clocked a 1:49.11 in the 800 at last weekend’s Oregon Relays, rewriting his university’s record book, posting the top time this season in the Big Sky Conference and likely cementing his spot in the NCAA West Regional Meet next month.
“When I found out my time, I was all smiles,” Crisofulli said. “I wasn’t even tired.”
That is the 17th-fastest time in the NCAA West Region, which is pretty much everything this side of the Mississippi, including conferences like the Pac-10 and Big 12. The top 48 times make the NCAA West Regional, so Crisofulli’s pretty much all but qualified for the meet, which is at the University of Oregon in Eugene.
And that’s a nice feeling. Last year, he was on the bubble all season before nabbing one of the final spots for regionals in Austin, Texas. Yet that was part of the process of transitioning from high school to Division I athletics for the former Huskies star.
At Battle Mountain, Crisofulli was one of “The Big Three” with Jonny Stevens (University of Colorado) and John O’Neill (Colorado State). They were the heart of the Huskies winning back-to-back state titles in cross country in 2006 and 2007, as well as the school’s regional track and field crown in 2008. Throw in Connor Tedstrom, Class of 2010, and they also won a state title in the 3,200-meter relay in 2008.
But as all those members of that relay team have discovered, the next level is a lot different, be it running for The Big Three or junior hockey for Tedstrom.
“I guess it was at the start of a race when they were announcing the guys in the race,” Crisofulli said. “There’s a guy trying to qualify for the Olympics on my left and an NCAA champion on my right.”
Nonetheless, Crisofulli has found his running legs at Division I. He said that the moment he knew he could compete at this level was at regionals last year, where he found himself in the same heat as Oregon’s Andrew Wheating, who had competed at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and won the NCAA title in the 800 in 2009 and 2010.
Crisofulli hung with Wheating for the first 600 meters before the latter turned on his burners.
Crisofulli dabbled in cross country during his freshman year before focusing exclusively on the 800. He trains in the fall and then goes into competition in the winter with indoor track.
Though indoor is definitely a different animal – usually with 200- or 300-meter ovals as opposed to the traditional 400, and the turns are sometimes banked – Crisofulli’s shined there. He set Portland State’s 800 record and has broken his own mark a couple of times. His latest record is 1:50.32.
While the spring track season is still the main event, Crisofulli likes the indoor season because it adds race experience and ensures that he’s in peak physical condition.
Crisofulli had been feeling pretty good about his racing going into the Oregon Relays, describing himself as “a little achy,” but otherwise fine.
“I’ve been hitting my paces in practice or running faster than them,” he said. “I’ve been feeling great. I’ve been working on my form, getting to pump my arms up in my motion and picking up my knees more.”
Next up is the Oregon Twilight Meet, also in Eugene, in two weekends, followed by the Big Sky Championship in Sacramento, Calif. While the conference meet doesn’t affect his NCAA standing, Crisofulli would like to pick up that 800 title to add to his resume.
And the NCAAs aren’t far off his mind. Like any good runner, he’s crunching the numbers.
“I know what I need to do to get there,” Crisofulli said.
A public-health major, Crisofulli hopes to go into coaching after he graduates from Portland State.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or firstname.lastname@example.org.