Craig earns NSAA All Conference honors

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Former Lady Panther track and field standout Lexee Craig continues to impress at the collegiate level. Craig earned a second-place finish in the pole vault at last weekend’s North Star Athletic Association Outdoor Conference Meet. Her jump of 10 feet, 8 inches also earned her NSAA All Conference honors for the second straight year, but was shy of her personal best of 10 feet, 9.75 inches set earlier this season.

“It wasn’t as good as I wanted,” Craig said of her performance. “There’s always room to improve.”

Craig, a sophomore at Dickinson State in Dickinson, North Dakota, also placed fifth in the long jump at 15 feet, 6 inches — just 3 inches shy of her personal best. As a team, the Lady Blue Hawks won the conference title for the third time in four years. Dickinson’s 215 points easily outdistanced Jamestown, second with 169.5 points.

As for being named All Conference again as a sophomore, Craig said it’s an honor she’ll always cherish.

“It’s a really big accomplishment, and it’s something I can always hold for myself and say, ‘Hey, I did this,’” she said. “It’s one of those things that makes you really realize how much you’re capable of.”

That said, there’s more Craig hopes to accomplish. She’s already set her goals for next season, and plans to work all summer to attain them.

“I always try to keep setting my goals higher,” she said. “Next season I hope to make not just All Conference, but also make nationals. I’ll be working on that all summer; we’ll have the pole vault pit set up and all of our poles out, so I’ll be pole vaulting all summer in Dickinson.”

With the long jump, Craig would like to break 16 feet, though it’s not an event she competes in on a regular basis.

“I hadn’t long-jumped since indoor conference until outdoor conference this season,” she said. “Long jump was kind of an extra thing I wanted to do, just to get a little bit more in. But I really would like to at least make 16 feet, and I think I can. I don’t really practice it but without having practiced it, I think I do pretty well.”

Craig, a 2016 graduate of Powell High School, still holds a piece of the school pole vault record of 10 feet, 6 inches. Her goal this season was to surpass that and, having hit that mark, Craig said it’s time to go higher.

“My goal this season was to beat my high school PR and go from there,” she explained. “Now, I just really want 11 feet. I want to get past that mark.”

Asked the biggest difference between high school and collegiate track, Craig said there’s been a tighter bond with teammates — especially with her fellow vaulters.

“We kind of started this thing where two other girls that I pole-vaulted with and I would pray together before we pole-vaulted every meet,” Craig said. “I just think that the team aspect is much closer in college. And you kind of have to be closer to be able to compete at that level.”

Craig admits to having somewhat unrealistic expectations of herself during her freshman season.

“I think last year my expectations were, ‘Well I’m in college now, I should be doing twice as good,’” she said. “I think the transition was kind of a shock for me. I felt more mature coming into this season, more mentally prepared.”

An organismal biology major, Craig has plenty to keep her busy when she’s not on the track. She still keeps tabs on her high school team, and as the Lady Panthers gear up for the 3A State Meet in Casper this weekend, Craig says she’ll be rooting for some familiar faces.

“Maddy Hanks is my best friend’s little sister, so she’s pretty much my little sister, too,” Craig said, laughing. “My advice to the vaulters this weekend would be to keep your heads cool. They know what they’re doing.”

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