Niwot High School: Home of Olympian Elise Cranny

Photo Credit: Bob Cranny (Elise Cranny’s Dad)

Photo Credit: Bob Cranny (Elise Cranny’s Dad)

Before this summer, Cranny was a name many students might have immediately recognized as the brutally steep hill right behind the school on the Cougar trail. You might have recalled seeing the name and face on the screen that flashes a loop of accomplished athletes’ yearbook pictures outside the auditorium. Or you might have remembered seeing her name on the Gatorade Athlete of the Year banner in the large gym. But Elise Cranny truly made a name for herself when she won the Olympic Trials in the 5K and earned a ticket to the Tokyo 2021 Olympics this past summer.


Behind every successful athlete is a supportive, positive team, and for every Olympian, the dream starts somewhere. For Elise Cranny, it was here at Niwot where the team and coaches contributed greatly to her future success at Stanford and later at Bowerman Track Club. According to Cranny, the program at Niwot exposed her to tougher competition. While talking about how Niwot shaped her successes, she said, “being part of the Niwot cross country team was really huge in terms of me going to Stanford and Bowerman because from an early age, it was about the importance of the team — that is what is really special about the Niwot community: the approach to making yourself better and those around you better.”


Going to the Olympics had been a goal for Cranny in high school, even if she hadn’t fully believed it was possible at the time. She took an important step towards that goal when she went pro with Bowerman Track Club in 2018. The transition to much more intense training was difficult, so the postponement of the Olympics was really helpful for Cranny, providing her another year to adapt to running at the professional level. 


Another defining moment in her journey to the 2021 Olympics was the Olympic Trials in 2016. “That was the first time where I was like, okay, I’m one step closer to that goal. I didn’t make it to the final; I made the semifinals of the 1500, but I saw what it takes for these professional runners to do this,” she explained. Elise Cranny finally accomplished her long standing goal of making it to the Olympics when she won the 5k at the Trials in June of this year; she ran a 15:27 at the legendary Hayward Stadium in Eugene, Oregon.


For the general public, our perception of the Olympics primarily comes from the internet and social media. It is portrayed as an incredibly intense and competitive atmosphere, the end game for athletes, but there’s so much we don’t get to see as viewers looking in from the outside. When asked what the most surprising aspect of the Olympics was, Cranny said that the size of the Olympic Village resembled a mini city, with its gift shops, all the countries’ flags hanging up, stores, and dining halls. It’s almost overwhelming. Cranny describes her time in Tokyo and all the emotions that came with it as “jarring,” saying the whole thing took a while to sink in.


For most professional athletes, success means the Olympics, but success isn’t everything. “It’s really easy to get caught up in success being the only thing that matters; success at all costs,” Cranny cautioned, “but that’s not healthy at all, and it’s not necessary to achieve your goals.” Cranny points back to her college running career, when she battled through multiple injuries due to a lack of proper fueling throughout high school. Discussions surrounding nutrition and the importance of female athletes getting a regular period were absent during her time in high school, and, instead, a stigma that not getting a period meant you were fit circulated amongst teammates. If some of the knowledge that she later learned in college about nutrition had been shared with her or talked about beforehand, Cranny could have avoided several bone injuries that were induced by a lack of proper nourishment in high school. She wants things to be different for today’s youth, though. Cranny is part of a team of female mentors at Voice in Sport, a company that supports and advocates for young female athletes struggling with eating disorders, mental health, and other issues that are commonly neglected in sports. “I want to be able to use what I’ve learned to help people avoid injuries and teach people that it’s important to fuel properly and get a regular period and prioritize your mental health.” Cranny is helping to normalize important discussions surrounding fueling, body confidence, and mental health amongst athletes, coaches, and communities all over the country, pushing traditional sports culture towards a healthier mindset. “You can achieve your goals, but it’s important to do it in a way that is healthy and sustainable, so you’re happy and excited about it,” she said, emphasizing an aspect of sports that is often omitted.


Elise Cranny has a lot of experience with running, being an athlete, and life in general; and she has spent a lot of time giving back and offering advice to young athletes. Out of everything she’s learned, she said that her best advice for high school athletes is to have fun! It sounds clichéd, but it’s important to have fun with whatever you decide to do because that is how you will form connections with others, grow as a person, and find joy in the little things. Similarly, Cranny stresses the importance of celebrating every step forward and finding something positive in everything. That really goes for anything, not just sports. Staying positive and finding growth within obstacles and triumphs will help your overall motivation and happiness. -> Mandel, Lauren. “Olympic Rookie Elise Cranny ’18 Places 13th in the Women’s 5000m.” The Stanford Daily, 4 Aug. 2021,