The Long Run Ahead

Back in April 2011, I wrote the following piece on Chad Crowther. I originally wrote this for my sports journalism course, but with Chad’s approval, I revised the piece for online submission. Chad and his family are amazing people. I wish them all the very best.

Every mile is nearly the same. Every race is almost a guaranteed victory. Every other runner is behind. For Chad Crowther, cross-country running is second instinct. Winning numerous state and vocational titles, the 17-year-old from Lowell, MA is the best runner for Greater Lowell Technical High School. It began as something to use up time back in middle school. Then it became a way to stay in shape for high school basketball. But Chad’s early success in the Massachusetts Commonwealth Athletic Conference raised his goals and standards in cross-country running.

“I became the top runner at school midway through my sophomore year and made sure I did everything in my power to stay on top,” says Chad. “Because once you’re on top, you have to work harder to get better and stay on top.”

When it comes to Chad’s work ethic, it’s second to none. Over the last two summers, Chad’s goal was to run 300 miles each off-season. The first summer he ran 324 miles, and the second summer, 332. But his personal conditioning doesn’t end when school begins. Because practice was only five days a week, Chad would usually run four to eight miles each weekend.

“The thing that drove me in high school was I just wanted to be remembered,” Chad recalls. “I wanted people to bring up the name Chad Crowther and be like, ‘he was a really good runner, he was a hard worker’ …I want to be known as one of the greatest runners in Greater Lowell Tech history.”

Chad Crowther grew up in a family heavily involved in athletics. His triplet brothers, Dan and Tyler had been highly competitive from a young age when playing basketball and soccer.

“The competitiveness factor when we were younger was really high,” Chad reflects. “We all wanted to be better than the other two.”

Each one of the triplets excelled at their own sports. Tyler played football, baseball and wrestled, while Dan tried several high school sports such as crew, indoor track, swimming, and wrestling. But his main sport was on lacrosse. Unlike Chad, the other triplets attended Lowell High School. Chad also has younger twin sisters, Liz and Lauren.

Through high school, these triplets were excelling academically and athletically. Their bond and life at home was going great. But on a January afternoon at Wachusett Mountain in Princeton, MA, tragedy struck the Crowther family. Dan Crowther and his cousin went snowboarding for the day. Dan had gone many times before; it was something he loved to do. While riding down a trail, Dan attempted to perform a jump. The combination of speed and height was too much for Dan, as he suffered a head and neck injury while crashing into the snow. He was not wearing a helmet. Dan Crowther had lost his life at the age of 17.

After the burial of his brother, Chad couldn’t gather the motivation or will to run for nearly two months. He didn’t just lose a brother, he lost a triplet. He never got the chance to say goodbye or tell him how much he loved him. Chad was filled with regret.

“Unfortunately, looking back on it, we weren’t really that close. We both did our own thing with our own group of friends,” said Chad. “Honestly, when he first passed away, I felt so guilty that maybe he would have thought I didn’t care about him. It wasn’t until about three days after he passed away that I found out I was wrong. This girl he met at the prom last year from Tyngsboro High School sent a hand-written letter to us. She was obviously shocked from what happened. But she explained that he made her prom night, and that he kept talking about his siblings.  She also said that he kind of ‘admired’ us. That really helped make the guilt go away.”

Chad eventually got back to running and school, but life at home has been far from peaceful. There isn’t a room in the Crowther house that doesn’t have a reminder of Dan. Whether it’s the collages of Dan’s photos, his team jerseys, or even the very snowboard Dan was riding on that horrific day, the Crowther family is always reminded of the lost triplet. Chad and Tyler can’t even touch the XBOX that Dan constantly played two weeks prior to his passing. It’s the little things that always have the biggest effect.

Chad Crowther is nearly done high school and committed to run for Fitchburg State University this upcoming fall semester. Chad is extremely excited to attend FSU the next academic year. When searching for a college, Chad wanted a school that was affordable, a good distance from home, and offered a track and field program.

“I’ve spent a day with some kids on the team and even participated in a practice with them, and they all believe I’ll be an instant impact on the team,” said Chad.

Chad’s work ethic is the same as it’s been throughout high school: work as hard as you can to be the best for yourself and the team. But every mile now isn’t the same. Every race won’t be the same. Everyday is not the same. Nothing is the same without Dan.

“The thing I’m still nervous about is that I won’t be able to get in the mind set to run at a high level, only time will tell.”