Cross Country: Crook Understands Importance of a Rocky Trail


Steve C. Wilson

Shaylen Crook , Utah Cross Country August 24, 2016 in Salt Lake City, UT. (Photo / Steve C. Wilson / University of Utah)

By Carra McManamon

Redemption is on Shaylen Crook’s mind as she enters her senior season with the University of Utah cross country team. Crook has a new outlook on things this year, and is ready to make personal improvements with hopes to have her best season yet.

“Over the years, I’ve had ups and downs,” Crook said. “Sometimes I focus too much on what others are doing and not on myself enough. I’m excited for this year because I’m just focusing on me, and I want to get myself better.”

Hailing from a small town on the coast of Oregon called Coos Bay, Crook knew from the time she was little that she wanted to end up in Utah. Both of her parents are from here, she still has family here and when she was offered a scholarship to run for the Utes, she wasn’t going to turn down the opportunity. Her experience at the U as a student-athlete has been something that she’s thankful for.

“It’s been pretty darn good,” Crook said. “I’ve had a lot of fun, and I’ve enjoyed living here. I’ve loved the athletics program, they’ve taken really good care of me.”

Crook, who ranks eighth all-time at Utah in the indoor 5,000 and ninth in the outdoor 10,000, said running is one of her favorite ways to explore. She has learned many lessons throughout her journey, and one person who has impacted not only her life but career as well is her head coach Kyle Kepler. 

“I’ve had coach Kepler for my whole time, he’s been here for forever,” Crook said. “The thing I really like about [Kepler] is he is a genuinely good person. He wants the very best for you, he really does.”

Kepler has impacted Crook’s life, but Kepler has also noticed what kind of impact Crook has had on the team. 

“We talk about servant leadership and being there for your teammates, being there for each other and maybe above yourself,” Kepler said. “And there is probably nobody who epitomizes that more than Shaylen. She’s always thinking of her teammates and trying to make sure that their happiness and their success is maybe as important, if not more important than her own.” 

It’s not always an easy path, but Crook knows better than to give up. Running is what Crook calls an “acquired taste” because it takes a while to get used to and enjoy it, but the more it’s practiced, the more likely somebody is to fall in love with it.

From experiences that Crook has gone through, she has come to understand what it takes to see hard work pay off. Her advice to new and current runners is to push through.

“Running is a great way just to explore,” Crook said. “I would tell a new runner, don’t give up, don’t be so hard on yourself because when you’re hard on yourself it makes things a lot less fun when you put so much pressure on yourself. Just enjoy the process of running.”

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