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The Student News Site of Prospect High School

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Athletes of the Decade: Ryan Craven

By Neel Thakkar

File photo of Ryan Craven in 2005
File photo of Ryan Craven in 2005

Associate Editor-in-Chief
Note: Ryan Craven was among the top 10 athletes of the decade who were honored in Thursday’s edition of the Prospector.
With just one-hundredth of a second separating first and second place, the finish seemed closer to what you’d see in track meet. But it wasn’t a track meet; wasn’t a swimming meet; wasn’t a Formula 1 race.
It was the 2005 IHSA state cross country meet.  Prospect runner Ryan Craven, sure that his years of effort were about to be rewarded, raised his arms in victory as he neared the finish line.

That bit of celebration cost him dearly.   In those last few crucial moments, it was Palatine’s Steve Finley that emerged, ever so slightly, in front of Prospect’s Craven, beating him out by the slimmest of margins: .01 seconds.
Calling the second-place finish – still the highest ever by a Prospect cross country runner – “dispiriting,” Craven, who was selected by the Prospector as one of the school’s top athletes of the decade, said it took some time for him to get over such a blow.
“I skipped school the day after,” he said.
“[It] would have killed most guys,” Mike Stokes, his coach, wrote in an e-mail.
For most seniors, that would be where the story ended, with gold-medal dreams left unclaimed on the track.
For Craven, though, that wasn’t the case.  There was a chance at redemption just a month and 2,000 miles away in San Diego, the site of cross country’s national championships.
Despite his stellar record, Craven was not expected to be a contender for the title; he had placed fourth in the qualifying Midwest Regional.  Even those who covered the event live seemed surprised in their descriptions afterward.  On the event’s website there is a detailed recap of the events; halfway through, the first mention of Craven appears:  “Ryan Craven, a senior at Prospect High School in Mount Prospect, Ill. came out of nowhere, surging ahead of the chase pack to get behind [the race leaders] [Michael] Coe and [AJ] Acosta.”
Craven would finish third, behind Acosta and Coe by 10 seconds, qualifying for All-American status, and earning the label of “possible Olympian” by a Prospector headline later chronicling the accomplishment.  To add to the moment, Finley – who bested Craven at state – was nowhere to be seen, finishing nearly a minute later and placing 33rd.
“It was the culmination of four years of hard work … it was redeeming but it was so much more,” Craven said.
Fast-forward to 2009.  Now a senior at Wisconsin, Craven no longer runs at the collegiate level, something he said “doesn’t work out for everyone.”
Still, he is not removing himself from the sport; instead, he plans to pursue a career coaching runners at the college level.
Though he admits he will have to endure a “couple of years of being penniless and paying a lot of dues,” Craven says one of the main things that motivated him was the experience he had with the program at Prospect.
“I’m looking to bring the care and guidance I had [at Prospect] to other programs,” he said.

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