Ginnie Crawford is driven. Her determination is unfailing; her dedication unwavering.
In more than 20 years of competing on the track, she has broken records and finish lines to earn dozens of titles. But she’s also battled adversity and come out stronger for it each time. Her career has been a winding road that has taught Ginnie the principles of perseverance and what it takes to overcome and be a winner. Each new challenge is a hurdle for her to get over, and Ginnie has known from a young age that she was made to get over the hurdles.
She doesnʼt remember the details of that day in 1989 — after all, she was only six at the time — but Ginnie knows how significant it proved to be.
Her mother, Stella, had suggested that she run track at a community center in their Seattle neighborhood. It wasn’t the move of an overeager parent hoping to continue the family sports lineage, though Ginnie did come from a family of athletes.
It was a desperate attempt to wrangle a young girl with boundless, pinball-like energy.
“We were bad kids sometimes; we ran all around, all around the place,” Ginnie said, recalling how she and her brother, Omari, kept their mother busy. “I was so hyper. My mom thought running track might tire us out.”
For Ginnieʼs mother, running brought the desired result that afternoon. Ginnie was under control, if only temporarily.
For Ginnie, running had a different effect.
“I loved it from that day on,” she said. “I donʼt know how it all started, but Iʼve always done it. Iʼve never not wanted to run track. Itʼs just what I do.”
Early on, Ginnie was driven as much by trying to beat Omari as she was by her love of running.
“I always competed with my brother in everything,” she said, laughing. “Bike riding, running, he taught me how to swim. I competed with him the most on a daily basis. He used to beat me to make me tough.”
It quickly became clear to anyone who saw Ginnie run that she was fast. Despite being just a little girl, she had a new goal: to be the next Florence Griffith-Joyner.
“She was a track star, she was an Olympian and that’s what I wanted to be. I was only seven years old saying that,” she said.
It was Ginnie’s agility, however, that compelled her club coach to pick her to run the hurdles. It was a decision that ultimately would shape her running career.
“I loved the hurdles,” Ginnie said. “It wasn’t that I was just going fast, but I was doing something just because it was a challenge. I was excited about the fact that I could hurdle and I wanted to show people. It just turned out to be something that I ended up doing for the rest of my life.”
Even after Ginnie transitioned into hurdling, she never forgot the speed and grace of the stunning Olympian. Inspired to leave her own legacy, a young, long-legged Ginnie embraced her new event with the fervor of a rightfully cocky young athlete. She couldn’t get enough.
“I remember being in the library in 7th grade and telling people I could hurdle now and I was like, ‘Oh you want to see me hurdle this couch?’” she said. Egged on by her peers, Ginnie defied a teacher’s knowing stare and took off in a sprint among bookshelves.
“I just looked at her, and I looked at the kids and I knew I had to do it,” Ginnie said. “Of course, she wrote me up for detention, and I deserved it.”
As Ginnie developed her technique in the hurdles, her speed would carry her from couches to three Junior Olympic gold medals.
Next was Poland, where she competed – and medaled – at the 1999 World Youth Championship. Ginnie was a long way from the dirt track at the community center, and at the start of something special.
WOMAN OF TROY
Because of her talent, Ginnie had many choices when it came time to attend college. Scholarship offers were coming in everyday. Staying true to her love of family and the west coast, Ginnie chose to run for the cardinal and gold of the University of Southern California.
“Everybody who is a Trojan is so gung-ho about being a Trojan,” she said of the campus visit that ultimately won her heart. “It’s a very close knit circle so when I got there it was like, ‘Ok I’m going to get the best of both worlds here.’ They have a great track team and great academics as well.”
To this day Ginnie, says her closest friends have been teammates, and she found the same to be true in college.
“Our team was like a family, we had such great times on our bus rides,” she said. “That was our time where we would just sing songs, play games and just act a fool.”
In between academics and cheering for an undefeated football team, Ginnie found time to win two NCAA Women’s Outdoor Track and Field Championships in the 100m hurdles. In 2006, Ginnie broke a collegiate record in the semifinals, then went on to win the event the following day with a world-leading time.
She remains a proud, spirited member of the Trojan family.
“Whether it’s football, basketball, we all support each other,” Ginnie explained. “Even now on Twitter, we’re always giving each other shout outs for great things that we do. We always put something like ‘Fight on’ or ‘It’s a great day to be a Trojan.’ We think that if you’re a Trojan, you’re the greatest thing walking, honestly.”
Ginnie was a rapidly ascending star when she entered the pro circuit in 2007. But just as her professional career was getting underway, Ginnie sustained a brutal fall at a race in Paris, shattering her lateral tibia. It triggered a series of injuries that ultimately would sideline one of American’s best up-and-coming female athletes.
“That put a stop to the next few years. I was dealing with injury; not being able to compete consistently, not being able to train consistently,” Ginnie said. “I wasn’t progressing like I wanted to.”
Ginnie did everything she could to train though the pain, and postponed surgery until the following summer. It proved to be a regrettable decision, leading to additional issues and eventually, a knee injury. After a sixth place finish in the 2008 Olympic Trials, Ginnie found herself watching the Beijing Games on television.
“I had just had surgery and I was in St. Louis watching the Olympics,” said Ginnie. “I wanted to be there on the team. I thought I would, just like I thought I would get the gold at World Championships. That was kind of the direction that my career was going in.”
Recovery was slow.
“It was devastating,” she recalled. “But I really tried to stay positive with my faith and everything. Going through it, I was like, ‘OK, I’m real positive,’ but afterwards, when I got back to running in 2009, it was frustrating. I thought I was going to be back fast like I was.”
Instead, Ginnie struggled. It became clear that it was going take time to return to world championship form. Her frustration was immense.
“I was living in the past with what I could have been doing instead of using this as my struggle that I have to go through in order to achieve success,” she said. “You still can’t help to think of what could have been. I cried at times over that.”
A FRESH BEGINNING
It was not until the beginning of 2010 that Ginnie felt strong enough to push herself hard once again.
Since that time, however, there has been a complete transformation.
“I feel like I’ve done a complete 360,” she said. “Then I was in bed, I couldn’t walk or anything and had just gotten out of surgery. Now I feel stronger than ever, I feel like I’m in great shape. I feel like I’m getting the speed work and stuff that I need. I just feel totally ready and excited to go out there and compete.”
Training with renowned coach Bobby Kersee and a world class group of runners, Ginnie is closing in on the marks she achieved back before her injury. She has four wins during the 2012 outdoor season, in times she hadn’t hit consistently since before her injury.
“I feel like the old Ginnie,” she said. “Feeling confident, feeling fast, looking at my sport with some sort of excitement for me again.”
After a fourth place finish at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials, Ginnie recommitted herself to the sport and went on to post her fastest time of the year a week later. Her focus remains fixed on getting better each and every day and eventually having a gold medal draped around her neck.