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Crowley blazes trail to Golden Bears Hall of Fame

Date: 10/24/2014

SPRINGFIELD – Gary Crowley ‘84 is a trailblazer. He is also one of six new inductees of the 2014 Western New England University (WNE) Athletics Downes Hall of Fame that were enshrined as the 16th class during Homecoming Weekend Sept. 12 and 13 at Rivers Memorial Hall. Peter Stasz, who is the president of the Greater Springfield Harriers club and a local attorney who graduated from the Western New England School of Law, served as Crowley’s presenter at the induction ceremony.

Crowley was among the early pioneers of Golden Bears Cross Country even though he didn’t start his academic career at Western New England. He spent his 1979-80 freshman year at Springfield College and then attended Springfield Technical Community College the following academic year.

Crowley began his Golden Bears career during the program’s second varsity season in 1981, a breakthrough year when the junior proved to be the second-best runner on a 9-4 dual-meet WNE squad that ended up seventh at the NAIA New England Championships. Teammate Garrett Mahoney represented the Golden Bears at the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics national championships.

He began the 1982 campaign as a senior co-captain and became the team’s top runner, just missing qualifying for Nationals after taking seventh place in the New England region meet (the team was ninth).

A fifth-year senior in 1983, he was the Pop Crowell Invitational champion with a time of 31 minutes and 36 seconds for 10,000 meters, a fourth-place finisher at the NAIA New England Regional Championships in Lyndon, Vt., where the Golden Bears were eighth out of 15 schools. He advanced to the NAIA National Championships held in Kenosha, Wis., as he was selected to the NAIA Scholar All-America Team--the only student-athlete in the East named with the honor. Western New England ended up with a 12-7 record for its best mark during his tenure.

Crowley graduated summa cum laude while majoring in computer information systems. He currently works for the U.S. Postal Service Forest Park Station, where he has been employed for over 29 years.

A Springfield native, Crowley now lives in East Longmeadow with his wife, Susan, and children Caitlin, 15, and Connor, 11.

Crowley’s most memorable moment as a student-athlete combines regret and goal satisfaction.

He explained, “This is a difficult question to pick one memorable moment but if I have to: I had mixed feelings about finishing fourth at New England’s in my senior year because I felt that if the race was well marked that I could have won it (I led for much of the race but had to keep waiting for others because I didn’t know which way to go). In the end, I was 9 seconds behind the winner. But the good news was that for the first time in three tries, I qualified for Nationals – a major goal since Day 1 that I arrived on campus.”

Crowley’s best advice given by his college coach was, “Try to keep balance in your life. Running can be an important part of your life but it has to be balanced by study, work, family, friends, etc.”

Crowley tries to stay active in the sport he excelled at Western New England despite suffering an injury several years ago.

“I always thought that I would be running until late into life, but I have stopped full running workouts since around 2006 when I had ankle surgery. I’ve been mostly walking lately (but) I still intend on getting back into running, bicycling, cross-training and speed skating. I hope that when I have more time in retirement that I will resume a more active role. I do, however, volunteer at a few races during the year that are sponsored by my running club, the Greater Springfield Harriers,” he said. He also enjoys inline skating and hiking.

Crowley enjoyed his time as a Golden Bear on the cross country team “because mainly it was a lot of fun running with my coach and teammates. When runners graduate from college and they no longer have the team to run with it is a difficult transition into life after college. I continued running at a reasonably high level for about 15 years after graduation but have always missed the WNE cross country team since using up my college eligibility.”

And what about what a Western New England degree means to him? “To me, earning my degree meant that there were a lot of doors open to me. I worked at Mass Mutual upon graduation, but realized that I would be happier in my current employment in United States Postal Service. I am guessing that after 29-plus years that my education would need a little updating, but it was nice to have choices in life.”