Blugold named Kruckman Scholar-Athlete

Naomi Long, cross country captain, wins WIAC award

Thomas DeLapp

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“I had a very lucky time being in college with no injuries,” Long said. “Being able to experience all those things is really valuable. Not all those people have that success.”

UW-Eau Claire student Naomi Long has been named the 2022 WIAC Judy Kruckman Women’s Cross Country Scholar-Athlete. 

In her years in cross country at UW-Eau Claire, Long has competed at every conference the team attended, winning numerous awards from WIAC and beyond.

The award is named after Judy Kruckman, a longtime WIAC leader and former UW-Eau Claire women’s athletics director. 

According to WIAC, the award is “based on academic achievements, athletics accomplishments and involvement in other campus activities, organizations and community service projects.”

Long, a fifth-year special education and elementary education student and cross country captain, had a conversation with The Spectator about the award, her career and running cross country.

The following conversation has been edited for clarity

Thomas DeLapp: What was it like getting the award?

Naomi Long: As a freshman, I really didn’t know what this award was. I knew it as “the smart person award.” Every winner has always done so much stuff, I watched as they said all the amazing things the winner had done. 

Their GPAs were crazy. I didn’t think I’d ever get this type of award because of my past struggles in education as a high schooler. I was just honored to be nominated and I didn’t really tell people. 

At conference, they called my name, and none of my friends knew that I had been nominated. I got really emotional finding out I got the award — they usually pick STEM people, and I’d never seen someone in education get it. 

I’m really happy they went with that, especially with the diversity of choosing me; a Latina, a Native American, you know, there’s not many people in the Wisconsin district able to win that award. It meant a lot to me. 

TD: Tell me about what you’re studying, what do you hope to do after graduation?

NL: My roommate was doing elementary and special ed, and I’ve always been into teaching, but there’s that stereotype that you won’t make any money, and all those things; I always wanted to be a teacher but told myself I couldn’t do it. 

I took a class and ended up loving teaching. I love kids and I’m a very creative person. I love bright colors, I’m an extrovert, I’m pretty organized but I also kinda like chaos, so I think that works well with kids.

TD:  What experiences, teachers or classes have been especially meaningful for you?

NL: The special ed department is very close. Our professors all interact with each other, we’re almost like a family. Being a part of that major and department just makes the experience better and makes me proud of what I’m doing as a teacher. 

TD: How do you see that working together with cross country?

NL: Cross country is like another family. At first, when I was the younger one, I looked up to the older girls and wanted to be like them. As I progressed through the seasons and got older, I had those little, younger girls, and I was able to lead them. 

I wanted to know how they were doing, and about their lives. So I feel with teaching, my department and major, as well as cross country, it all falls under relationships and having a connection with each other. We are all sisters, I tell my team. 

In the department, it’s the same, seeing the same people every day and having the support of a community that understands what you’re going through. 

TD: What are one or two of your favorite memories from cross country over the years?

NL: Before practice and school time, my coach sets up this camp, called Camp Manitou, and we are out there in the wilderness. We don’t use our phones. It’s time to bond with the girls on the team and welcome the new girls to the team as well. 

My favorite memories from that camp are our nights together, where we have those important talks about goals for the season, college transitions, input for the season. We just get to bond and share laughs. It’s learning about everyone that’s super exciting. The memories of bonfire nights and good talks. 

More information on Long and the Kruckman award can be found on the Blugold sports website. 

DeLapp can be reached at [email protected]