After winning the 100 and 200 meter dashes at last spring’s Class C track and field state meet, Hall-Dale senior Bri Crisci saw sprinting in her collegiate future.

But after attending Division II Belmont Abbey College in Charlotte, N.C. this year, Crisci has evolved into a middle distance specialist. She did compete in the 200 this season and set a school record that has since been broken by a teammate. But she also set school records in the 400 (58.85 seconds) and 800 (2:20.46) and is capable of going much faster, according to Crusaders coach Mike De Witt.

“Her comfort zone is the 400,” said De Witt, who expects Crisci to break 56 seconds in the event. But he sees an even greater future for her in the 800, once she learns to pace herself and control her speed.

“She doesn’t really know how to use it yet,” he said. “She will definitely be a great 800 meter runner (capable of 2:10).”

Crisci possesses the fast-twitch muscles common to sprinters and still has a sprinter’s mentality when approaching longer distances. De Witt said she often tries to make up the stagger too quickly and expends too much fuel, but believes she’ll adjust over time.

“I never thought I’d be a 400 meter runner,” said Crisci, who nonetheless took second in the event at the Class C state meet. “I really do like the event. There’s a lot of thinking involved. It’s been quite the learning experience.”

Crisci struggled a little during the indoor season, her first ever, mainly because runners aren’t obligated to maintain their lanes throughout the race. But she learned there, too, as she did running for De Witt on the cross country team last fall. She started out as one of the last couple of girls on the team and worked her way into the top five by season’s end.

Crisci did run cross country her senior year at Hall-Dale but said she didn’t devote enough time and effort into it.

“She’s still learning how to run 20 minutes non-stop,” De Witt said.

Added Crisci: “Cross country has helped me a lot. I didn’t really know how to pace myself for a race.”

Crisci and her parent put a lot of effort into looking for the right college as she entered her senior year in high school. She attended St. Augustine and St. Michael schools in Augusta before Hall-Dale and wanted to go to a Catholic school. She spoke with De Witt about the track program and was sold on the school after a campus visit.

“I was just blown away,” she said. “I felt so welcome. I knew when I came here it was the place for me.”

Belmont Abbey has a strong academic reputation and a diverse enrollment of 1,700 students. Of the 30 members on the track team 14 are from different states.

“It’s a good match (for Bri),” De Witt said.

Crisci plans to run over the summer and compete in a few road races while working for the family business. She’ll also continue to train in martial arts — her older brother Brent runs Crisci Martial Arts Academy in Augusta — something she has done since age 4.

She has yet to declare a major but is thinking about business administration. Crisci attends the school on a combined academic and athletic scholarship.

Gary Hawkins — 621-5638

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