As freshman Beth Cripps steps on the runway for pole vault during her track and field meets, she listens for assistant coach Matt Scheffler cheering and yelling words that keep her focused and unaware of the chaos behind her. Before she begins her descent down the runway, Cripps repeats Scheffler’s words out loud to herself, and she does it again on her way down the strip.
Staying focused on and off the runway is something that has paid off for Cripps. At the 2017 NCAA Division III Indoor Track and Field Championship, she received an All-American honor as a freshman and placed eighth with a mark of 3.60 meters. In the classroom as a music education major, she is just as busy as on the track — but she still finds a way to manage the two.
Cripps said she faces hardships that come along with being a student–athlete, compounded by her rigorous rehearsal schedule and music curriculum. She practices her instrument, the oboe, every day and track Monday through Friday with meets on Saturdays.
“I had to learn to plan really far in advance with certain things and learn to communicate with my professors and coaches,” Cripps said.
Because she does this, she said, there is rarely a time when she has to miss a track event for a music event or vice versa.
Head coach Jennifer Potter said Cripps does an excellent job communicating with her and Scheffler about events that may interfere with track.
“Beth is one of the most matured, organized, composed freshman who has a lot on her plate between being a music major and a track athlete,” Potter said. “She handles it all amazingly.”
Before attending Ithaca College, Cripps participated in track and field all four years of high school and gymnastics from 7th to 12th grade at Paul V. Moore High School in Central Square, New York, practicing music at the same time. As a freshman in high school, she began pole–vaulting but did not become serious about it until a new coach, who was hired her sophomore year, encouraged her.
Cripps said she started track and field because her older sister did it. Before that, gymnastics was a big part of her life until she began to outgrow it physically.
Looking past high school, Cripps said she knew she wanted to continue what she was doing going into college.
“In high school, sports and music — that is just what I did,” Cripps said. “So when I went to college, people always said, ‘You can’t do both,’ but I always wanted to because it’s what I always did.”
She found that in college, there is more competition and everyone’s marks are a lot closer to one another than in high school, but she said that is what helps her work harder — and land a spot at indoor nationals as a freshman.
“[It is] an awesome experience and fun to do,” Cripps said. “The competition is so close now, but it helps me work harder because I like to keep up with all the girls.”
Senior pole–vaulter Katherine Pitman said Cripps has grown as an individual throughout the year.
“She was quiet and kind of kept her head down and would just grind,” Pitman said of Cripps’ growth over the year. “Of course, her work ethic hasn’t changed, but definitely her as a person. She has opened up and become way more outgoing.”
Over the course of the season, Cripps and Pitman have been able to form a relationship outside of track. Both individuals look up to one another despite their difference in class standing.
“I feel like I learn a lot from her — she is a very composed and poised athlete, and she’s a really hard worker,” Pitman said.
Cripps’ situation of being a track athlete and a music major is rare, Potter said, not even considering her qualification for nationals and her being named All-American.
“She’s the first ever I had, music ed major and track and field,” Potter said. “It’s not an easy marriage; it’s very challenging. Her ability to manage it and deal with it is incredible.”
Potter said coaches are there to make athletes’ lives as easy as possible, but Cripps deserves most of the credit because how she makes it happen.
It is only the beginning of Cripps’ time as a student–athlete at the college, and Pitman said there are big things to come from her.
“This is just the beginning,” Pitman said. “And I think she has so much to offer — not only as a student–athlete, but as a person, and I think she will go very, very far.”
Though her balance is a difficult one, Cripps said the benefits outweigh any hardships she faces.
“Being a music major and an athlete makes me a better person all around,” Cripps said.