Irish connection takes runner to next level

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The challenge of leaving home to pursue a career in collegiate cross country has been difficult for Robert “Bobby” Crowley.

Crowley, 18, was born in Carlow, Ireland. The freshman ran cross country at Knochbeg College before coming to the U.S. and enrolling at Michigan State University. For Crowley, he has witnessed significant culture change.

“Americans love their flavor. Americans love their food: potatoes, meat and broccoli,” Crowley said. “The people as well, (Americans) are a lot more for coming, a lot more talkative and chatty people, too. Those are the two big differences for me.”In his first season, Crowley experienced the hardship of being a college athlete from overseas.

“I am being red-shirted my freshman year, the first few weeks were very tough, but I feel like I have settled in,” Crowley said. “Obviously I miss my friends and family but I am happy here; I have a nice Irish flag in my room that I kiss every night before I go to bed.”

Most of all, Crowley has had a difficult time transitioning into a full-time student athlete.

“Interacting with people is the biggest transition. The first week, the time difference had me a bit spooked as well, I am a bit jet-lagged,” Crowley said. “The hardest obstacles have been balancing time management. We train from 3 to 6 every day, obviously that’s a large chunk. So you try to be social and do homework on the side.”

Teammate Andrew O’Connor has helped make the changeover an easier process.

“I have introduced him to the American culture and helped him to blend in. I try to help him out,” O’Connor said. “I try to tell all the incoming freshmen to have fun, learn from your mistakes, don’t be afraid to ask questions and, most important, have fun.”

O’Connor is three years older than Crowley. Crowley said he provides leadership to him.

Inside Jenison Fieldhouse where runner Robert Crowley trains.

Bradley Merlo

Inside Jenison Fieldhouse where runner Robert Crowley trains.

Crowley also credits the athletic training staff with helping guide him. One of the trainers, Trevor Mccgowan shares a special connection with Crowley.

“We have in the training room two guys from Ireland. One is from a college back home. That was pretty cool,” Crowley said. “I did not know them beforehand, I just bumped into them in the training room. They actually came up to me and said, ‘Oh, you’re the guy from Ireland aren’t you?’

“It’s pretty amazing to be so far from home, and run into a guy who’s also from my hometown in Ireland,” Crowley said about Mccgowan. “He understands me, definitely looks out for when I visit him in the training room.”

Mccgowan, O’Connor and the other Irishmen on the cross country team are the faces who Crowley turns to for mentorship and guidance.

Crowley visits Mccgowan daily in the training room, inside Jenison Fieldhouse. The relationship Crowley has formed with the training staff and his teammates are unique. Crowley credits the staff and his best friend, O’Connor, for pushing him to be a stronger runner and hopefully down the road a Big Ten champion.

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