Crawford beats mono, becomes All-American long jumper

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As one of the top long jumpers in the nation, Rutgers redshirt junior Corey Crawford is used to being judged by his numbers, but no amount of track and field experience prepared him for the 10-day period last month when his white blood cell count was the only statistic that mattered.


Crawford was diagnosed with mononucleosis less than two weeks before the NCAA Regionals, gaining medical clearance on the eve of competition in Jacksonville, Fla.


With limited practice time, Crawford placed second to earn an elusive spot in the NCAA Championships in Eugene, Ore., where he capped his season Thursday by taking seventh and duplicating his winter track status as a First-Team All-American.


“I had the mindset in my head that I just had to stay positive,” Crawford said of staying focused during a time of uncertainty. “I was telling myself, ‘I’m going to compete no matter what. I don’t care what they tell me. I’ve worked way too hard. I’ve come way too far. This is my time.’ The last two years I went to Regionals and I didn’t make it to Oregon. There was nothing that was going to hold me back. Nothing.”


The Bergen County native said he began feeling sick leading up to the IC4A Championships held May 16-18 in Princeton. He reset his own school record (7.91 meters, 25-11½ feet) in the meet but sensed his antibiotics weren’t working because his tired, sluggish feeling persisted after almost two weeks of care.


“I got some bloodwork done at Rutgers and my numbers were awful,” he said. “I had a swollen liver. My white blood cell count was more than triple what it should have been. I was battling. I didn’t practice for 1½ weeks. I just sat in my room and got healthy.”


Still, Crawford headed to Jacksonville on May 27 not knowing if he would be part of the field. He ran the gamut of medical exams over the course of five hours at a nearby hospital and waited for the results, which came in stages.


First, no swollen spleen and accompanying risk of rupture. Then the bloodwork.


“I was at the track and I wanted to warm up,” he said. “But my trainer was like, ‘No, you are not cleared to do anything.’ It was frustrating because I was at the track ready to go and get a good practice in and I can’t even do that. I had to wait, wait, wait. This is when you want to be sharp.”


By most standards, Crawford, who was seeded second based on his Regionals performance but had the eighth-longest season-best mark among competitors, was sharp Thursday when he jumped 7.47 meters (24-6¼ feet) on his first attempt on a course marred by a strong headwind and a spitting rain.


But by Crawford’s own standards, he was not.


“It wasn’t really the outcome I wanted, but at the same time I got out of there with First Team so I can’t be that disappointed,” Crawford said. “I’ve always set high expectations for myself. I don’t think that affects my performance. I went out there and jumps-wise I had the worst meet I’ve had all season. I’m more competing against myself. I want to try to further myself every meet and get better and better.”


Crawford, who declared himself healthy and said mononucleosis didn’t affect his performance, will return to action in two weeks competing against other top collegians and professionals at the USA Track & Field Outdoor Championships. It’s one of the two meets he has had his eye on since the calendar turned to spring after his second-place finish at the indoor NCAA Championships.


“Indoor, I kind of got (the title) snatched away from me,” Crawford said. “I came out with a chip on my shoulder and I think everything got the better of me. It was fun, I learned from it, and I have another year so that’s how I have to look at it.”


Staff Writer Ryan Dunleavy


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