May 7, 2013

COLLEGE CONNECTIONS: Larrabee surprising nobody but herself

By Matt DiFilippo mdifilippo@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

Chrissy Larrabee had this idea about college athletes. They were at a higher level, one she couldn't reach.

click image to enlarge

GIVING HER ALL: Husson College’s Chrissy Larrabee competes in the women’s 1,500-meter run in the New England Division III track and field championships Saturday at Colby College.

Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

Then the Husson University field hockey coach asked her to play. Then the Husson women's basketball coach asked her to play. Then the outdoor track coach, well, you get the idea. This fall, as a junior, Larrabee will compete in her fourth different sport at Husson, over three different seasons.

"I wanted to go for (physical therapy), and I didn't really want to go far away from home," said Larrabee, a Brooks native and Mt. View High School graduate. "So the only PT schools in Maine are Husson and UNE and Husson is considerably cheaper than UNE and it's a six-year program versus a seven-year program. I actually didn't plan on playing any sports in college when I came to Husson."

But Husson track coach Chris Wood was the strength and conditioning coach for the field hockey team and urged Larrabee to run track in the spring. After a transition season as a freshman, Larrabee has been running multiple events at meets as a sophomore and often finishing in the top three. She also competed this weekend in the 1,500 meter-run at the New England Division III track and field championships at Colby College.

"She went from almost like a recreational-level middle distance program, which is still a little bit more, I think, than she had done in high school," Wood said. "This year, Coach (Kate) Goupee's done a fantastic job with her and she's made tremendous strides. I think she's realizing some of her potential, (but) there's just so much more improvement and so much more of a high ceiling for Chrissy, next year's going to be much better, even, than this one.

"We've had her run anything from the 400 up to the 1,500. She's our top runner from that spot up. We've used her in countless relays."

On the basketball court, Larrabee started 24 of Husson's 25 games this winter. She was third on the team in minutes and at 5-foot-8, second in rebounding. Husson coach Kissy Walker describes Larrabee as someone whom you tell her something once and she corrects it and Wood has also found that to be the case.

"She's very intelligent," Wood said. "She takes coaching very well. I think some of it goes along with the fact that she's just an easygoing person for the most part."

In Larrabee, Wood also found a runner who was more like a ball of clay.

"She's just such a raw runner," he said. "From a technique standpoint, there's a lot of room for improvement there. And just cues on the track -- like knowing when to pull back and when to push -- she's still learning a lot of that stuff. Right now, she's running the races on kind of raw instinct."

Larrabee also has a sense of humor about herself and one of the things that brings that out is when she talks about that process of going from a raw runner to a star college runner.

"It's definitely still a process," Larrabee said, laughing. "I am not good at cutting in in a race. I get so nervous and I get freaked out when I'm boxed in. In high school, I had no problem running in the third lane out. If I got pushed out there, I was like, 'I'll run the whole mile in the third lane.' You add on like 20 meters to your race, but..."

At the New Englands, Larrabee finished 23rd in the 1,500 with a time of 4 minutes, 52.16 seconds. She was a little wistful about that, saying afterward that she had an extra gear in her, but didn't realize it until she was pushed late in the race.

"My goal for next year -- it's a pretty lofty goal -- but I'd like to be in the 4:30s for my 15," she said. "Definitely can hit the 4:40s, but we'll try. We'll see."

Competing in New Englands, being recruited by coaches on campus, setting goals, running cross country this coming fall to prepare for track -- it's all pretty heady stuff for someone who didn't even plan on being a part of any college sports programs.

"Sometimes I look back," Larrabee said, "and I'm like, Wow, that's crazy.' I didn't plan on doing any of this. I have been so blessed to have all these opportunities. It's amazing. I wasn't expecting any of it and it's been extremely enjoyable and fun."

Matt DiFilippo -- 861-9243

mdifilippo@mainetoday.com

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