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Misericordia University sophomore and athlete is one of a kind

Quinn Crispell is 20. She’s a professional studies major in her sophomore year at Misericordia University.

Quinn runs for the college’s cross country team. She might also be the only athlete in the country competing at the collegiate level with Down syndrome.

Quinn's dad, Scott Crispell, reached out to the National Down Syndrome Society to ask if they know of another student like Quinn competing in a sport at the collegiate level.

He said, while athletes with Down syndrome have competed in the past, right now: "they're not aware of somebody."

Quinn is not only competing on a university cross country team, she's also taking 12 credits a semester. She is in the Alternative Learner's Program at Misericordia and works with student tutors and a supplemental note taker.

"Now we've found that sometimes Quinn's notes are actually better than some of the note takers," said Scott. "It's just a good resource. It's a great program for students, individuals, who otherwise might not have the opportunity."

Quinn graduated from Wyoming Valley West High School. She played all different types of sports growing up. At the end of sixth grade, her school made an announcement. They’d be holding soccer tryouts. Quinn signed up. But this was a co-ed team. She had been playing soccer but her dad was nervous. Quinn is pint sized; she's only about 3 feet tall.

"We let her train just for the fitness and for the camaraderie," said Scott. "She played with these kids ... for years.”

By the end of the summer, Quinn was running a mile and a half in 13 minutes and 32 seconds. The coach called Scott and said "let her try out." There were 90 kids going out for 35 spots. Quinn pushed herself in the try out. She gave it her best. So the coach put her on the team.

"The fact that that he saw how hard she worked ... that's the biggest thing. You see just how hard the kid works in everything she does," said Scott.

Scott knew she wouldn’t get a lot of field time on the soccer team. Junior high cross country is just a bit farther than what Quinn was already running.

"We thought ... maybe let's let's look into that," said Scott.

Quinn has now been running for six or seven years.

In the last few days of summer, WVIA News caught up with Quinn who was having an early lunch on campus with her friend Jacqueline Stack. She was heading to class after.

When she reaches the finish line, Quinn said she feels good.

"But also like tired too,” she said.

Quinn likes winning.

"And I like competing against other people," she said.

Stack, 23, first met Quinn when she became her running buddy.

“I can't keep up with her anymore," said Stack. "We just do weekly lunches or if we have the time we can go on our walks. So it's more of a friendship, not just running.”

Quinn runs a 6K at Misericordia, which is just over 3.5 miles. College cross country courses are hills and gravel.

"When you do it for the first time, it's like a punch in the face," said Scott.

Scott, the assistant athletic director for Media/Community Relations at Misericordia, and his wife, Debbie, never put limits on Quinn.

"We try and put her in situations where she can do her best, whether it's in school, whether it's in sports and just in life in general," said Scott.

She's been in inclusive, regular educational settings since preschool, said Scott.

"She's always surrounded by typical peers, which is sometimes, a lot of times, challenging for her," he said. "But I think it's certainly led to her success to me because ... she has role models and she has to try and keep up with them."

Scott is filled with an amazing sense of pride when he watches his daughter compete.

"She's an inspiration," he said.

Quinn knows she has Down syndrome.

"She doesn't let it stop her," he said.

Quinn said ultimately she gets her determination from her friends, family and teammates.

Kat Bolus is the community reporter for the newly-formed WVIA News Team. She is a former reporter and columnist at The Times-Tribune, a Scrantonian and cat mom.

You can email Kat at katbolus@wvia.org